IMPACT in Atlanta takes a mental health approach in fighting HIV

positiveimpact-body-3-29-13From the

The list of drugs David Bedsole has abused reads like a greatest hits of the gay club scene: Ecstasy, GHB and crystal meth. Bedsole, age 50, says drugs became a problem for him not even three years ago, in August 2010, but it didn’t take long before his life came apart. “Meth brought me to my knees,” he admits.

For James Carmichael, age 42 and also gay, the struggle with substance abuse began much earlier, at only 17. After abusing heroin, cocaine and crack, he hit rock bottom. “[I was] losing myself spiritually, mentally, [facing] homelessness and wanting to live a better way of life,” he says.

Pearl, a 29-year-old transgender woman who did not want her full name used, dates her problems with marijuana back to 2000. She, too, found herself at a turning point.

In addition to struggling with substance abuse, Bedsole, Carmichael and Pearl are all HIV-positive. And all three found help and hope at Positive Impact, the HIV mental health agency celebrating its 20th anniversary with a week of events in April. Founded in 1993, Positive Impact served 135 clients in its first year. Last year, it served more than 5,500. The agency launched its substance abuse treatment program after achieving state licensure in December 2008. Leaders felt they needed to fill the void left by the closure of Our Common Welfare, which was the area’s only drug treatment program specifically focused on people with HIV.

Called simply IMPACT, the program is licensed by the state to provide intensive outpatient substance abuse treatment. It compliments Positive Impact’s host of other services, which include counseling for individuals and groups; psychiatric services, free HIV testing; education and empowerment programs; the MISTER Center, a drop-in center for gay and bisexual men; and more.

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To find out more about Positive Impact in Atlanta, you can visit their Website.

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