Green Crack: Blisters on my feet, 2,500 words on a sheet

Like a true addict, there was no way I could say no to the crack.

Green Crack, that is.

Green Crack is a strain of medical cannabis. It is cultivated by GoldLeaf.

I have heard people rave about this strain. But as someone who was addicted to crystal meth from 1997 until 2001, and easily could have had a heart attack (once or twice I think I did) while tweaking, I don’t think kindly of the “crack” vernacular being applied to anything medicinal.

Names like this strain’s are one of the biggest stigmatizing forces the medical cannabis industry faces, if you ask me.

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What’s the flip side?

The flip side is that the addict in me absolutely has been wanting to check it out. If it’s called “crack,” and if people like it that much, something tells me I may find it pleasurable. And it’s legal!

Hmmmm. Irresponsible marketing? Not really. The stoner vernacular is to describe a strain as exactly how, well, a stoner sees it I guess. Bio Jesus. Girl Scout Cookies. Ghost Train. Etc.

That’s another blog post for later this week.

At any rate, experimenting with uppers is what led me down addiction’s beaten path. It was all fun and games on the dance floor in the beginning. You can read about my struggle with crystal methamphetamine by clicking here.

Green Crack helps sick, weary rise from bed

I certainly would not compare Green Crack to crystal meth or crack cocaine. However, it does hit me in the groin and make me horny, like crystal meth always did. I do not feel the least bit impaired cognitively. I do have quite a bit of energy, especially considering I got up at 3:30 a.m. and it is now almost 1 p.m.

Who would need something labeled “Crack” as medicine, one might ask. Well, for starters, how about depressed people? Or for that matter, anyone with a condition so debilitating, be it from physical or mental pain, that they don’t even want to get out of bed each day.

Do you know what that feels like? I do. But it has been a good many years since I have felt that way.

You do kind of wonder how “green” can make you feel like this. I understand it has to do with terpenes, the sativa strain, etc. Still, it definitely is an ampy feeling, but without any of the harsh side effects you would find in unnatural uppers like meth, or dirty ones like crack.

Add Moroccan melt for three, two, one…ignition…

However, like a true addict, it wasn’t enough for me to simply smoke the Green Crack flower. As a grand finale, I sprinkled Turbo Lemon Cake Moroccan melt atop one final bowl.

Now that is quite something. I just power-walked three laps around the block. I have plenty to do here inside the house as well.

Green Crack effectively powered me into the tenth, eleventh and 12th hours of my workday today. When coupled with Turbo Lemon Cake Moroccan melt by Revolution Cannabis, the power-walk laps around the block served as an effective cardiovascular routine in between writing cannabis blogs and book chapters.

Green Crack contains large amounts of psychoactive THC. For people suffering from anxiety or mental illness, such a strain could induce psychosis and other undesirable effects.

I have been high strung most all my life, but in the past week feel better than I have in years. I found the Green Crack to be a fun supplement to my day that resulted in increased productivity.

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David Heitz is a freelance writer for Contently, which provides America’s most recognizable brands with the finest content in the world.

Why Shelby County is the conscience of Illinois’ medical cannabis industry

For the first time in quite a long while, money is really tight for me right now.

Thank God that a non-profit like Shelby County Community Services is a player in the Illinois medical cannabis space.

And get this: Shelby County Community Services is helping to meet that community’s mental health needs, in spite of Illinois’ dire state budget crisis, by growing and selling medical marijuana. Legally.

Other mental health care providers, of course, are fighting tooth and nail to resist all things cannabis. If we dispel the fear about cannabis, people might find their way off alcohol, hard drugs and psychotropic medications that have dangerous side effects.

Don’t get me wrong. Marijuana can be dangerous for a mentally ill person, too. But far less so under the supervision of a doctor.

More on SCCS in a second.

I just lost my primary client of the past two years, Foundations Recovery Network. I turned in my last story a couple of weeks ago. There are many more awesome Foundations stories in the workflow pipeline that I will continue to post during the next month or so.

Foundations has been a Godsend, a great experience, and an incredible client. They are taking their marketing in a new direction, however, that doesn’t include written content marketing from the platform through which they hired me.

That gig alone paid better than the last full-time newspaper job I had. So, losing them is a bit of a shellshock, I suppose.

Read more: Cannabis K-Cups better than an Ativan drip

The good news is that I was semi-prepared for it. I’m also using it as a way to spend even more time working on my book until I find a really good fit with a new client or three.

And in the meantime, I am grateful for the inexpensive cannabis cultivated by Shelby County Community Services.

Hugs to my Foundations Recovery Network friends

Before I get into the great work of Shelby County Community Services, and how they are as compassionate as the wondrous plant itself, I want to emphasize that Foundations knew about my medical cannabis card. My medical cannabis use and recent blogs about it had nothing to do with why my gig with Foundations has ended.

I think that’s important to share in the context of the medical cannabis discussion. Presumably, a chain of rehabilitation centers and mental health hospitals might take issue with one of their freelance writers penning about medical cannabis.

If they did, they certainly handled it with the utmost professionalism. I asked permission from my brand editor before going public about my card. He said it was fine to blog about it on my own site. He also wished me luck with the treatment.

And I do feel it was genuine. Every interaction I ever have had with all three Foundations Recovery Network editors I have worked with has been kind and professional. You just can’t say that about many bosses over the course of two years.

They even offered to serve as a future reference. Such nice, decent people. I would encourage a loved one in need of treatment to consider their services in a blink.

So, hugs to my Foundations friends! We not only produced great content, we produced some great journalism.

Truly bringing peace to those who need it

Shelby County Community Services serves as the unofficial conscience of Illinois’ medical cannabis industry.

I didn’t fully understand this until yesterday. I had commented to budtender extraordinaire Trinity Lane Indica Ivy at Nature’s Treatment in Milan (Illinois, not Italy) that Shelby County’s strains seemed to be remarkably consistent.

Read more: Check out my portfolio of paid reporting about infectious diseases

She explained that, yes, they are, and that SCCS happens to be a nonprofit organization who employs people facing disadvantages in the workplace.

Indeed, a full 100 percent of the cannabis sales proceeds supports people with disabilities. Check out their website and the important work they do by clicking here.

In addition to providing jobs to the developmentally disabled and culturally marginalized, Shelby County offers substance abuse and outpatient mental health services.

Even more than that, Shelby County is always the most inexpensive cannabis I purchase at the dispensary. And if truth be told, it is by far the most consistent and reliable as it pertains to medicating my anxiety.

It may not get you super-duper high, but if your symptoms are related to anxiety it can make you calm for a relatively low price.

Shelby County keeps cannabis program’s mission in mind

Trinity Lane Indica Ivy sent me home with a brochure about Shelby County Community Services. It also lists their mighty strains of flower, and I mean mighty with a capital ‘M,’ as in medicinal.

As I previously have explained, the Illinois medical cannabis program is truly medicinal. I am getting strains not available in other states that specifically are grown to treat my PTSD-related symptoms.

For example, I tend to smoke a strain called Painkiller No. 1 during the day. It is $35 for 1/8, which is not a bad price.

Here’s what’s unusual: PK No. 1 is 7-8 percent THC and 10-12 percent CBD. It is extraordinarily unusual to find cannabis where the CBD content is actually higher than the THC content. If you can find a 1:1, as a person with PTSD you’re doing great. CBD is what calms your nerves.

Most people just want to know how high the THC is, and operate with the belief that more is better. There is so much more to medicinal cannabis. The topic of terpenes is another blog post altogether.

I will say I have learned it is high THC content that puts me to sleep; not CBD. The trick, of course, is getting it from an indica strain that makes me feel peaceful before I pass out  — like Bio Jesus.

You can check out my review of Bio Jesus here.

THC makes you ‘high,’ CBD makes you calm

I reported during my trip to Colorado in May how I was shocked to see very little cannabis with significant CBD content available even for that state’s medicinal patients.

This seems to be a recurring theme. While everyone is singing “Take me higher,” CBD doesn’t make a person “high.” However, for those of us living with PTSD, the feeling of calmness is so absent from our lives that indeed such peace is euphoric.

“SCCS specializes in CBD rich cannabis strains,” an organization brochure explains. “We focus on all the cannabinoids and terpenes in the medicine, not just THC.”

The other day the dispensary had a sale called “Flower Flight” or something to that effect. The promotion included three grams of flower for $25 (super low price for Illinois medical cannabis). The strains were Z7, Black Mountain Kush, and Thunderstruck.

I found all of them to keep me calm and level. One bowl of Black Mountain Kush is lights out. Nothing wrong with having plenty of that on hand. Lack of sleep can be my biggest enemy.

It was then that I mentioned to Trinity Lane Indica Ivy the value of the Shelby County strains, and she shared with me what I just shared with you.

Please keep following my work to learn more things about medical cannabis that may surprise you. Take care!

Check out my portfolio of paid articles about mental health topics

Cannabis K-Cup far better than an Ativan drip for breakthrough anxiety

You can watch the accompanying video at David’s Facebook page, @DavidHeitzHealth.

I never have had an injection of valium into the buttocks, but I have been placed on an Ativan drip in the crisis center of a hospital before. Twice.

One cannabis K-Cup is far more effective than an Ativan drip. I can tell you that already.

In what I can only describe as a complete relaxation of the body and mind, one cup of this coffee gets you to a happy place.

At least it does for me. More importantly, it gets you there very, very quickly. I would say less than five minutes after the first swallow.

And it’s perfectly delicious coffee. There is no cannabis taste at all.

But you feel the cannabis. I did drink the entire cup.

Each K-Cup contains 10 milligrams of THC. But don’t think, well, that’s like the content of the weed dad used to smoke. When you consume THC via edibles or, in this case, a beverage, the effects are hard and fast.

I bought the medium roast “Donut Blend” K-Cup by CannaCafe. While $25.99 for three K-Cups is a very steep price, I think I am going to try to always have one K-Cup on hand in the event of an anxiety or panic attack. Nothing I know of possibly could be more effective for breakthrough symptoms. Unless maybe a shot of valium into the buttocks.

Whatever you do, don’t drink one of these and go into the office! Or go anywhere at all!

I suspect my tolerance is relatively high, and yet I have to lie down. But for me, such deep relaxation is welcome. I will meditate or pray and play some music.

Have a wonderful day!

Editor’s note: I never made it to my iPad from my laptop to play the music. I fell back asleep and slept another two and a half hours. I am going to run the K-Cup through a second time AFTER I completes my errands. :-I highly recommend trying the K-Cups for breakthrough anxiety symptoms if you are a registered medical cannabis patient in your state.

My Jack-in-the-Box trauma that almost nobody ever knew about

Photo courtesy Pixabay

In 1974, my dad hurled my toy Jack-in-the-Box at my mother.

He missed.

The Jack in the Box nailed me instead, in the crease of my nose, running into what’s now my laugh line on the left-hand side of my face.

In the 1970s, believe it or not, toy Jack-in-the-Boxes were made of metal, not plastic.

What I remember is staring into the giant mirror in the living room, screaming in pain, blood running down my face.

I never forgot this horrible memory. But I never processed it either.

I did tonight.

EMDR (eye movement desensitization reprocessing) is pretty amazing. One theory is that as you watch the light beam go back and forth, back and forth, REM sleep is initiated, allowing you to process those deeply embedded, disturbing memories that got stuck. The amygalda must deal with them or they can interfere with daily life later on.

I’m not going to get into my session, but being struck by that Jack-in-the-Box caused damage that never had been processed.

While the damage it caused has permeated my life in recent years, processing it tonight was easier than you might think. There were a few tears while some specific memories and “a ha!” conclusions bubbled to the surface.

But the “a-ha” epiphanies are liberating.

Domestic violence a cycle of meanness; kids lose

In a nutshell, tonight’s session pulled back the curtain in my mind shrouding the true impact domestic violence has on families. We hear over and over and over again how we end up choosing partners and relationships that mirror the dysfunction we grew up with.

But let me tell you something. Even when you work as a mental health writer, you might know that truth inside and out, front and back. But you probably don’t really understand it if it has profoundly impacted your life and you never have processed it. I had recreated those sorts of relationships with several people who no longer are in my life.

It’s a cycle of meanness. Words can be as bad as physical blows. Children always lose, and are left picking up the pieces just as I am now.

I hope they don’t wait until they are 47 years old to do it. But sometimes we don’t even realize those unprocessed memories are lingering. PTSD, obviously, is a huge clue.

Anger, jumpiness, fear, distrust of all, drug and alcohol abuse, and resentment all are classic signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. Remember, PTSD can happen to anyone.

If you have these symptoms, I urge you to seek treatment.

Deeper understanding, motivation of staying sober

I was asked tonight to rate how much I believed the statement, “I can live a healthy life.”

On a scale of one to seven, I listed it a seven.

I told my therapist I can only live a healthy life without alcohol.

I didn’t arrive at the conclusion though after sitting in a circle and being told I was bad. I’m not going to explain how I arrived at it with a much greater realization than I even had previously. It’s a personal process sifting through those stuck memories. Odd how they bubble up.  Tonight they had themes of alcohol and domestic abuse.

And 2 ½ years of solid sobriety on your own is a pretty incredible accomplishment. So, I know I had a pretty deep understanding that I was powerless over alcohol from the day I chose to make the effort to quit.

I have known that more than three years now, even if I have been taking an occasional sip again since mid-January — until 10 days ago.

This treatment is working for me. I wish I had not waited so long to start it.

Bio Jesus is God’s gift to us, after all. Holy cow, it’s good.

I’m safe at home now with Bio Jesus.

Anybody who relies on God and Jesus every single day as much as I do may also enjoy the Bio Jesus medical cannabis strain by Cresco Laboratories. Bio Jesus is an indica strain labeled “Rest.”

Who knows, maybe it works for heathens, too! I am just kidding. But maybe it does!

At any rate, after abstaining this weekend from the medicinal weed, today I was able to eke out enough greenbacks for a gram of Bio Jesus. It’s a bit pricey for sure, but now I understand why.

I could never put a price on my relationship with Jesus, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the medical cannabis strain also conveys rich rewards of the spirit.

I have not felt so clear and good and confident and well in a very long time. But I woke up that way, too. Although this is even better!

I encountered one nasty person today, but their venom is annihilated by all the gracious people in my life. And there are so many. Those who have stuck by me through the worst symptoms of my now-obvious lifelong PTSD. Anybody who has known me since childhood knows this. Most of them are good.

I will put on some music when I’m done with this piece, and then I will really be loving life. I played hermit this weekend, yet it was restful. I like to walk around my block. Today a neighbor called over and we had a lovely chat. She was out with another neighbor who recently sold her house. They are such nice ladies.

I took another lap around the block and there were all. three. ladies. I kid you not, from this long-ago piece I wrote for the Quad-City Times about my neighborhood.

These three robust women – all chatting and loving life during this beautiful morning in my beautiful neighborhood – have lived here 50, 60, and 70 years respectively!!!

I told them I would have been here 47 years had I never left. And now I am here again.

In my beautiful safe home. And I cry as I write this as I am so overcome with gratitude to God, my parents, and everyone who has helped me find God.

This was supposed to be a review of medical cannabis strain Bio Jesus. I hope it served the purpose.

God bless!



From Paris: Beyond ‘The Mississippi Baby’ and scary news for transgender women

Photo courtesy Pixabay

The latest HIV news is way too impactful not to report.

Longtime followers of my page know that I essentially made a name for myself in health reporting because of my always-first coverage of HIV issues for several national websites from 2013 to 2016.

Over time, clients have changed, and my HIV reporting has fell by the wayside. I plan to do my darndest to change that soon, with or without paid HIV reporting clients.

Today there are several exciting developments to report. It’s all coming out of the International AIDS Society Convention going on right now in Paris.

Beyond ‘The Mississippi Baby’

Conference attendees learned today that a South African child has been in HIV remission, without drugs, for almost a decade.

You might remember the so-called “Mississippi Baby,” which managed to live HIV-free in theory because doctors detected the virus at birth. The child immediately was put on antiretroviral medication, but the virus rebounded once the medication stopped.

But 10 years in remission, without drugs, is a new accomplishment altogether.

“Further study is needed to learn how to induce long-term HIV remission in infected babies,” said Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). “However, this new case strengthens our hope that by treating HIV-infected children for a brief period beginning in infancy, we may be able to spare them the burden of life-long therapy and the health consequences of long-term immune activation typically associated with HIV disease.”

Read more: Hearing Dr. Fauci of the NIAID speak at ACP Convention a huge thrill

According to a news release from Fauci’s office, “Before starting treatment, the child had very high levels of HIV in the blood (viral load), but after beginning ART at about 9 weeks of age, treatment suppressed the virus to undetectable levels. Investigators halted treatment after 40 weeks and closely monitored the infant’s immune health, and the child has remained in good health during years of follow-up examinations. Although it was not standard practice in South Africa to monitor viral load in people who were not on ART, recent analyses of stored blood samples taken during follow-up showed that the child has maintained an undetectable level of HIV.”

In a nutshell, this is huge.

“To our knowledge, this is the first reported case of sustained control of HIV in a child enrolled in a randomized trial of ART interruption following treatment early in infancy,” said Avy Violari, F.C.Paed, in the NIAID news release. Dr. Violari co-led the study of the case reported today.

“We believe there may have been other factors in addition to early ART that contributed to HIV remission in this child,” added Caroline Tiemessen, Ph.D., whose laboratory is studying the child’s immune system. “By further studying the child, we may expand our understanding of how the immune system controls HIV replication.”

Hormone therapy for transgender women may interact with HIV medications

Unfortunately, there is also bad news coming out of Paris today: Hormone therapy for transgender women may interact with HIV medication.

This is particularly alarming given the fact that transgender people already are at tremendous risk for HIV infection.

Read more: Does cannabis slow the spread of HIV? My 2014 report

According to the NIAID news release:

“Despite all indications that transgender women are a critical population in HIV care, very little is known about how to optimize co-administration of ART and hormonal therapies in this population,” said Jordan Lake, M.D., study leader at the University of California, Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine, who is currently continuing this research at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at Houston. “This study suggests this void of information may mean some transgender women forgo life-sustaining HIV medications, identity-affirming hormone therapy, or some combination of the two. By exploring the extent to which this is happening, we can find ways to better serve this population.”

The study included 87 women receiving treatment at a community-based AIDS service organization in Los Angeles.

Says Fauci: “The best thing a person living with HIV can do is to start and stay on safe, effective antiretroviral therapy, both to maintain their own health and to prevent sexual transmission of the virus. We need to ensure we understand the perspectives of groups disproportionately affected by this pandemic to provide the best health care for them. Further study is needed to help determine how health care teams can optimally tailor care and treatment for those living with HIV.”

Read more: My 2014 special report on why supporting the transgender equality movement is a matter of public health

Stay tuned to @DavidHeitzHealth on Facebook, @DavidHeitz on Twitter, and for more news coming out of IAS.

Smoke screen science: Is brass or silver better?

Let’s get down to brass tacks about brass screens.

And silver ones.

What the heck is the difference?

What once may have seemed like a trivial dilemma suddenly matters a whole lot. Medical cannabis patients want answers about such mysteries.

And this truly remains a mystery, it appears.

At my dispensary the other day, the ab fab NTI of Milan (Illinois, not Italy!), the budtender commented about this when I ordered screens. I order them a lot. I want a fresh one for almost every new bowl.

Read more: The joy of buying medical cannabis legally

“I’m not even sure what the difference is between the silver and the brass,” he commented. “Do you?”

I acknowledged that I didn’t, and commented that it seems no one does.

For years, all head shops have just thrown the screens into the bag when you buy them. You don’t even know if you’re getting brass or silver. For the longest time, I didn’t know silver existed.

‘Silver’ screens conduct heat better

I prefer silver most of the time, but not always.

The science is pretty simple – the “silver” better conducts heat. For the record, I’m quite certain they are not really silver (in fact mine say on the package they are stainless steel, but not all do), nor are the brass screens really brass. We’re talking colors, not metallurgy.

While the discussion online regarding silver and brass screens seems to sidestep seriousness, I suspect that’s changing every day.

Why we must be honest about the benefits of medical cannabis

First, let me say that I know many people hate screens, and pipes period. Or, they prefer a glass pipe. Or concentrates. Or edibles.

I’m still an old-fashioned pipe guy, even after trying all the other methods. It’s old school, but it also keeps my tolerance lower as opposed to jumping into concentrates. That means more money in my pocket.

Let’s face it. Illinois medical cannabis is not cheap! Not yet, anyway.

Why I prefer silver screens

I prefer silver screens because I tend to smoke sticky Indica strains for my PTSD.

Read more: What is EMDR and why am I having this unusual mental health treatment?

The indica strains also seem to have denser leaves. So, when you hit a bowl lined with a silver screen, it heats up quickly and you get a much better hit.

At least that’s my opinion.

The downside is burning up your bowl or “jumping the bowl,” where you think your weed has another hit and you inhale ash and metal. It’s yucky.

This happens less often with brass screens, but they turn gross really fast. At my dispensary at least, they are the same price as the silver ones.

But now and then I’ll use brass, too

I will use brass now and then, and I keep both on hand.

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For me, I prefer to use brass if I am smoking some sativa with thinner, less-dense leaves. I use the brass because I don’t want to “jump the bowl.”

But I don’t smoke sativa very often.

It all comes down to a matter of choice when it comes to screens, but I hope this helps. Feel free to share your thoughts on silver v. brass in the comments.

Finally, a word to the wise: Don’t throw away your dispensary bags without first taking your screens out.

I suspect it is easy to do.

Check out my portfolio of paid reportage about infectious diseases (HIV, Hepatitis C, etc.)

Storm aftermath: Mosquitoes could spell trouble for Quad-Cities

Way too much water.

It has poured rain where I live – as in torrential downpours, with high winds and spectacular lightning – for 10 hours straight.

For the moment, it has stopped. I have power.

It was knocked out about 7:30 p.m. last night as I was filming the storm out the back door. I caught the transformation explosion (you can see the lightning bolt and hear the electrifying pop) on tape!

It came back on shortly after midnight, and has gone on and off several times since then.

But we have bigger problems. I want to talk a bit about mosquitoes

Crickets, locusts, lullaby me to sleep

But before I forget, a shout out to MidAmerican Energy. I don’t know how they restore power so fast. There must be some new technology. Or just an impressive amount of manpower.

I have to say that until it got stuffy, it was sort of cool with all the power out. The neighborhood was totally silent minus the sound of a chainsaw off in the distance. Presumably, they were working to clear a downed line.

This neighborhood is filled with crickets and locust and critters and such that LOVE weather like this. They were playing a symphony that took me right back to 1975, when my parents did not turn the air on come hell or high water.

Mosquitoes see stagnant, warm puddles as bath houses

Speaking of high water…where has all this water gone? Where will it go?

Finally, I don’t want to be alarmist, but there was a tiny blurb in the Argus last week about West Nile virus mosquitoes confirmed in Rock Island County.

Stagnant puddles of water – which are EVERYWHERE in the Quad-Cities and will be for days to come – are breeding grounds for mosquitoes. It’s where they lay their eggs.

So try to remove any standing water around your house.

West Nile virus causes fever, vomiting, headache, and body aches. In some people, it can result in death. Older people and those with compromised immune systems are most at risk.

What is Zika and who is most at risk?

I’ll be honest. I can take a hunch and with the proper Google search terms confirm it or not. Look what I just found.

This January 2016 Mother Jones story asks whether El Nino is to blame for Zika. It talks about flooding in South America, and how it fueled a Zika outbreak.

Check out my portfolio of paid work on matters of public health

Said Laurie Garrett, a global health expert: “It will definitely make its way to the United States.”

For the record, the Illinois Department of Public Health says Zika likely won’t come here because our mosquitoes don’t carry the virus.

If I were a pregnant woman in Illinois, I would just pretend like it’s here anyway and be careful. West Nile can’t be good if you’re pregnant either.

But I am not a doctor and that is just what I would do.

Mosquito advice from Martha Garcia

My super-duper smart friend Martha Garcia wrote this story about staying safe from mosquitoes. She’s funny and tells it like it is. Like me, she’s out to inform.

Love my Martha Garcia.

‘Green Room’ fast becoming my favorite in the house

Through the years, I’ve had friends who designate rooms of their homes “Green Rooms.”

You can imagine where the namesake comes from. After all, I have just rebranded my site, “Mental wellness, sober living and medical cannabis. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.”

I might drop the second sentence. I mean it in a good way, but it sounds like I’m poking.

I also thought about “Cannabis and Recovery. Every day.” In fact, I declare that one mine, too!

At any rate, my friends with ‘Green Rooms’ always have made me, well, green with envy.

Once decorated with Bozo, two twin beds

This used to be my bedroom.

Book preview: Dad and I reclaim the property

Picture it: Rock Island, Ill., 1974. Me and my brother crammed into this room with two twin beds. Bozo the Clown curtains and bedspreads. I was 4; my brother, 13.

Lucky him. He moved to the cellar when mom and dad built the room addition in 1976 and semi-remodeled the basement, and this became my bedroom.

It had been closed off for a very long time. I never really used it. I never really slept when dad was here. I always was chasing after him. When he went into the facility, I started sleeping on the couch. Finally, I moved into his old room.

The room became a junk collector.

Room a gratitude reflecting pool

The real reason I am writing this column is that I glanced in here and just thought, “Wow, I love this room. I am so grateful for so many things.”

It’s a nice distraction when you are upset about something to focus on your blessings. We all have them. If you dig deep you can always find one uniquely yours – whatever helped you get through the day, be it a cup of coffee or a call from a friend.

Imagine the day without that one thing.

Maybe it was as simple as buying a head of lettuce for 39 cents.

Read more: Here’s why we need education, not misinformation, about medical cannabis

Maybe it was a warm bed, or a cool one.

I used to get so mad when people talked to me about gratitude. But it really does work. Trust me.

Meaningful items bring about serenity

I love the items in the room. An old friend stopped by a few months back. I could tell he was exasperated that I remodeled the house but mostly have the same old stuff. I like my stuff.

The desk is a table that I bought at Ikea in Carson, Calif. in 1993. I wasn’t sure if I wanted it, then someone else wanted it. It was the last one, so I bought it.

That plant was given to me by my next-door-neighbors – the ones in the home the plant is facing, fact. They gave it to me when dad died. It is growing by leaps and bounds. I call it my Jack and the Beanstalk plant.

The Oriental-style lamp was a Goodwill find — $7.77. The cool wastepaper basket? It was expensive, even on sale, and from Target. I’m embarrassed to say what I paid for it. But I love it in the room!

The same goes for the kitschy LED lamp. Target. Not cheap. And on sale. But so cool!

AIDS LifeCycle T-shirt reminder of important work

The T-shirt draped over the wooden bar stool was sent to me by the Los Angeles LGBT Center when I covered AIDS LifeCycle the second year. They are wonderful people there. My HIV reporting has been an extremely important part of my medical writing career and where it all began.

Read more: Sharing my personal relationship with HIV as I ready for AIDS LifeCycle

I can’t wear the T-shirt because it’s a – now, I’m serious – extra small.

Seriously, Gil Diaz?! 😉

Finally, there’s a little man laying out in the sun underneath the LED lamp. That came from a dear old friend long, long ago.

Longtime friend.

I think my Green Room is the grandest of all.

Do you have a Green Room? Tell me about it!

Read more: My portfolio of paid work on infectious diseases/public health topics

Testimony supporting Strategic’s plan to build Bettendorf psychiatric hospital


(Image courtesy Pixabay)

The Iowa Health Facilities Council will consider the application of Strategic Behavioral Health of Memphis, Tenn. to build a psychiatric hospital in Bettendorf during a public hearing Thursday in Ankeny. Here is my submitted testimony to the council in support of the hospital.

June 16, 2017

Health Facilities Council

c/o Becky Swift

Iowa Department of Public Health

Lucas State Office Building

321 E. 12th St.

Des Moines, Iowa 50319

I submit this letter in support of Strategic Behavioral Health today as a former patient of the Robert Young Center, an advocate for the mentally ill, a person in recovery, and a health care journalist and branded content writer.

I even was offered the corporate writer job at UnityPoint (then Trinity) in 2002. I had many wonderful meetings and interviews through the years with David Deopere and Bob Lundin, who I both admired. I worked at the Quad-City Times from 1986 to 1992 and again from 2002 until 2010, when I quit to care for my elderly father. He died of behavioral-variant frontotemporal degeneration almost two years ago. BvFTD is a disease that takes a staggering toll over time not only on the patient, but also on the people around them. My dad received disability Social Security in 1984 at the age of 46 and lived until almost 78.

He also was a patient at Robert Young Center for many years and never made it secret how he felt about them either, but I won’t repeat the words he used.

Today I need to share my story, and we need to address the broken mental health care system in the Quad-Cities once and for all. Why we are even debating this is extremely disturbing in the light of the mental health care crisis here. That hospital could have been built by now and would already be helping people.

On May 6, 2015, I was “arrested” at Amber Ridge Memory Care in Moline, where my father lived, on no charges at all. I never was charged with anything, but they told me my offense was raising my voice.

When they booked me, I refused to sign something regarding an assault charge, as I did not assault anyone. They therefore threw me in the “suicide” cell for two days. By law, you can keep someone two days if they are suicidal.

Not more than two hours later that day a nice young woman from Robert Young Center showed up at the cell window. She was wearing proper identification and such. She asked me what happened. I explained I was involved in a criminal investigation (that indeed has produced fruit) and that I was frightened because I thought I saw a “bad guy.”

Ironically, I had just been diagnosed by an RYC clinician with PTSD a few days before. But my PTSD has been chronic and lifelong due to growing up in a violent home. It’s not just the result of the events of the past several years.

To make a long story short, the RYC clinician who showed up at the jail said she would get me released, repeatedly affirming, “You clearly are not suicidal.”

I would love for someone to ask that woman about her visit with me. RYC told me no record exists of her visit.

My understanding is that RYC does not create a medical record unless there is a bill attached. That’s why the record does not exist. How can this be legal? Especially when the mental health professional says you don’t belong in the jail, so they are holding you in violation of a “suicide” statute that allows them to keep you without charges.

Add the layer of being an informant in a criminal investigation, and boy does it stink. Stinks bad.

I plan to write a book about all of this soon and already have heard from interested publishers/documentary filmmakers.

When I was released, I was taken to the crisis center at UnityPoint in Rock Island. There, I was treated horribly by the emergency room doctor. I filed several written complaints about the entire incident. UnityPoint ended up forgiving the portion of my bill that Blue Cross Blue Shield did not pay, and not for financial reasons.

I actually was readmitted to the hospital a second day, taken by ambulance from the grocery store when I suddenly had a horrible panic attack and literally felt like I was going to have a heart attack. The bill was $1,800 total that BCBS did not pick up. I am very grateful that they forgave the bill.

My records from the stay are wildly inaccurate. For a day, they were “missing.” The patient advocate helped me get them. When I went to pick them up, they only wanted to give me the top page. I said that was not acceptable and laid down a credit card to pay for the whole thing. The clerk said, “Just give me what’s in your pocket” and discounted the rest and gave me the entire file.

The form letter regarding the bill forgiveness was slightly different from others, I have been told by former RYC employees. The first sentence said they certainly try to treat everyone with dignity and respect, or something along those lines.

Today, I am writing stories about addiction and recovery and improving outcomes for the elderly for two Fortune 500 healthcare companies. I am indeed a very blessed man; thanks to the excellent mental health care I receive twice a week at Southpark Psychology. I also am on a medication regimen I have been prescribed by a GP, as quite frankly I do not trust any of the psychiatrists here. Even if they are qualified they don’t have enough time to make a good diagnosis anyway. At either hospital/mental health center on either side of the river.

I attended my first American College of Physicians conference this year in San Diego. It was extremely exciting. Despite all that life has thrown me, today I am successful and healing.

I should have been taken to a psychiatric hospital May 6, 2015, like the one Strategic Behavioral Health wants to build. I never should have been jailed on no charges at all.

Many thanks,

David Heitz

Rock Island, IL 61201