Britt Hodgdon Manager of Behavioral Health on the Care2Prevent team.
According to the National Harm Reduction Coalition, “Harm reduction is a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use. Harm Reduction is also a movement for social justice built on a belief in, and respect for, the rights of people who use drugs” (https://harmreduction.org/about-us/principles-of-harm-reduction/). Harm reduction is often used with people who use drugs, in people involved in transactional sex, and in many other situations where the goal is to reduce harm to the individual while maintaining autonomy. As harm reduction is one of our values at CCHE, we pledge is to provide non-judgmental, accessible and quality approaches to care that meet participants’ needs on their terms, while supporting autonomy and choice. For June’s Staff spotlight we talked with the Manager of Behavioral Health, Britt Hodgdon (she/her) about the practice of harm reduction in her work.
When asked about her involvement in the work, Britt was exploring answers to the question she raises: “How do we help people who have been so hurt by systems, impacted by systems that traumatize, and systems that introduce people to other traumas?” because for her, the practice of harm reduction was present before she had language for it.
Britt grew up in Chicago, but spent time living in Denver. She participated in activism that centralized around immigration rights for Central American and Mexican individuals. Britt described her experiences as a catalyst for her radicalization. Britt served the immigrant parents of local middle schoolers through offering counseling about their experiences moving to the United States and by teaching English as a second language. Britt was told stories that exuded fear and confusion from the community, which prompted her to continue her journey in holistic work and harm reduction, specifically for people recovering from trauma. Prior to joining the Care2Prevent team, Britt also worked with youth experiencing homelessness and those involved with the child welfare system.
With her experience working with many different vulnerable and marginalized populations, Britt understands her role in harm reduction as “Asking [someone] what they need; Listening when they tell you; And believing them.” Britt sees her clinical work as an act of love, and does not take circumstances as one’s value in the world; she refers to this as “the full humanization of everyone”. She spoke of how she has learned to hold every single person’s individual dignity, while offering support towards healing on their own terms We talked about how harm reduction exists in radical honestly with oneself, such as offering yourself gentleness and self-compassion when you’re having a rough day, naming it, and allowing yourself to exist as you are instead of feeling the need to present as if everything is okay. “It’s loving myself first” Britt says.
For more information about harm reduction, visit: https://harmreduction.org/about-us/principles-of-harm-reduction/
To review CCHE’s values, visit: https://hivelimination.uchicago.edu/about/our-values/
“Cultural humility” speaks to CCHE’s pledge to do the work to grow through both our conscious and unconscious biases in understanding our community, and to strategize ways to create accountability as an organization and on the individual level.
With sizeable experience, Zizi has followed her calling to provide support to those that need it. This becomes difficult in environments lacking cultural humility. Zizi explains the microaggressions she has experienced in the work place and says “[it] opened my eyes to how discriminative organizations can be, especially to trans individuals”. Zizi gave me examples of some of the microagressions she experienced:
“How tall are you”
“Do you have any children”
At times, Zizi felt the need to hide the fact that she is transgender. The microaggressions evolved from speculative murmurs to loud disrespect. Zizi explained, “If they had cultural humility, there wouldn’t be that cycle of hate for someone because of their gender identity.”
Zizi also shared some of her techniques to stay in control of herself when approached with microaggressions or other forms of hate; One techniques is that she T.H.I.N.Ks before responding. T.H.I.N.K. stands for:
T. Is it true? Is it thoughtful?
H. Is it helpful/harmful?
I.Is it intentional?
N. Is it necessary?
K. Is it kind?
Zizi’s experiences with cultural humility have also led her on a path towards artistic expression as a young child: “Cultural humility helps you understand yourself as much as it helps you understand the people you share community with.”
Zizi started dancing at 11; she formerly had the dream of being a figure skater, but after struggling on the ice decided against it. One weekend, favorite Saturday morning cartoons channel broadcasted a ballet performance.“I remember her looking so graceful…and poised… and… beautiful.”
Zizi’s grandmother shortly after enrolled Zizi in ballet classes. After learning the basics of ballet, Zizi launched a dance class at Broadway Youth Center (BYC). While recruiting participants for her new class, Zizi met the Co-Founder and Artistic Director of Youth Empowerment Performance Project (YEPP), Bonsai Bermudez. Soon enough, Zizi juggled her responsibilities with an audition as a performance artist for YEPP. Not only did Zizi’s audition for YEPP leave the audience in tears, she also caught the attention of Cyndi Lauper which led to expedited growth for her and YEPP.
Zizi had a moment of self-reflection after her exponential success at YEPP. She admits that she let the success to get to her head, “I forgot to celebrate people.”
Zizi uses her personal experiences and moments of reflection to support others in the community. Zizi has curated Mindset Classes, a four-part series for new hires offered after orientation. “The Mindset Classes introduce ways of using the mind to heal and invigorate others to work collectively. My hopes are that the class will create a bond and unity, in order to serve our community. A healthy mind is the foundation to a healthy heart and body.”We all have capacity to affect the space and people we share community with. It is on us to hold ourselves and each other accountable. One way to do this is to practice cultural humility to better understand ourselves and each other.”