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Crystal Meth Emergency Town Hall Meeting Tonight

In The Meantime Men hosts discussion about Gemmel Moore’s death and solutions for addiction

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Gemmel Moore. (Photo from Facebook memorial page)

The toxicology report has not come back to determine the exact cause of death for 26 year old Gemmel Moore, but the Los Angeles Coroner’s office originally ruled his death an “accidental” overdose from crystal meth. For Jeffrey King, founder and CEO of In The Meantime Men, that sounded an alarm too many people have ignored for too long about the epidemic of crystal meth in the LGBT African American community.

King, along with a slew of community partners, is holding an open Emergency Town Hall Meeting and Call to Action tonightTuesday night, from 7:00-9:00pm at The Carl Bean House, 2146 W. Adams Blvd. in LA.

The first part of the evening, King tells the Los Angeles Blade, will be devoted to “giving dignity to the life Gemmel Moore lived, to empower the life of this young man who shared the same kind of experience with many peers. We think it’s important to shed light on the complexity of addiction and crystal meth—where race meets sexual orientation meets addiction. With race comes racism. Why was he not working a full time job or in school? Why was he escorting? To make fast money? Because he had too many felonies that made it difficult to find a job? It’s a cycle. And he was surrounded by amazing people—we’re going to be delving into all that complicated stuff.”

Jeffrey King, Founder, CEO of In The Meantime Men. (Photo via King’s Facebook page)

But, King says, the meeting will also work to find solutions, highlight the important work mental health and social support agencies are doing together, and formulate a call to action.  Kathy Watt, director of the Van Ness Recovery House will be there, for instance. But why is the Van Ness House the only facility (other than Tarzana) for LGBT addicts/alcoholics seeking help? Sober living facilities help keep you clean and sober, he says, they don’t get you out of the clutches of addiction. Perhaps a campaign targeting local elected officials can raise awareness of the state of emergency the silent meth epidemic has created in the Los Angeles County African American and Latino communities.

King is doing his part. Every Saturday from 11:30-12:30, there is a free 12 Step Recovery Meeting called “The West Adams Group” at the Carl Bean House at 2146 W. Adams Blvd.

He also features a breakdown of drugs and what they do on the In The Meantime Men website under the category “LARG (LA Addiction/Recovery Guide).” Here’s an excerpt under crystal meth: “Long-range damage: In the long term, meth use can cause irreversible harm: increased heart rate and blood pressure; damaged blood vessels in the brain that can cause strokes or an irregular heartbeat that can, in turn, cause cardiovascular collapse or death; and liver, kidney and lung damage. Users may suffer brain damage, including memory loss and an increasing inability to grasp abstract thoughts. Those who recover are usually subject to memory gaps and extreme mood swings.”

But crystal meth has its own brand of scariness. The Addictionblog  notes that: “[M]eth users can take a lethal dose and not realize it right away. But in general, meth overdose is characterized by physiological deterioration, eventually leading to a heart attack or stroke. Further, meth should not be used by people with heart, thyroid disorders and diabetes, because these chronic conditions may lead to sudden death….Because of rapid onset, death proceeds suddenly and unexpectedly after a meth OD. Many fatalities usually manifest symptoms of coma, shock, inability to pass and secrete urine, and muscle twitching. Emergency department visits due to meth overdose have been up to 130,000 per year, out of which almost 15% were fatalities.”

Crystal meth was out of control in the Los Angeles County area in the early 2000s—so bad in Long Beach, for instance, that the Long Beach Press Telegram ran an important and shocking series called “The Meth Menace.”   With PrEP not even on the horizon, the addiction, coupled with high risk sex, lead to the frightening conclusion about the possible spread of HIV. “Meth use, which has intensified over the past five years and replaced cocaine as the most popular illegal stimulant in Long Beach, and the nation, is widely abused among heterosexuals, too, but the high-risk sexual behavior it triggers among gay men has presented a new front in the war on AIDS,” the report said.

Then the epidemic seemed to subside. But not in the black community. “If you were paying attention, a few years back, about 2006 and 2007, you could already see a rising problem for black gay men on the horizon. No one talks about it, but it’s true. Even then the conversations, scattered and infrequent though they may have been, were just beginning to take shape: black gay men in New York City were talking about developing a crystal meth awareness campaign,” Charles Stephens, co-editor of the anthology Black Gay Genius: Answering Joseph Beam’s Call, wrote in a 2015 essay called “Black gay men must face the crystal meth enemy in their midst.”

Stephens acknowledged it wasn’t an easy discussion. “For one thing, we are subjected to such pervasive scientific objectification by society that a consideration of our interior lives, is often unthinkable,” he wrote. “To talk about meth addiction and black gay men forces a conversation about our sexual practices and our sexual pleasures. It forces a conversation about how we seek intimacy and connection. It forces a conversation about how we struggle to cope with racism and homophobia and also struggle to transcend them. It forces a conversation about how black gay men have inherited the collective trauma faced by our ancestors and elders.”

More recently, filmmaker Christopher Rudolph produced a documentary ParTy Boi: Black Diamonds in Ice Castles about how there has been an uptick in crystal meth that is devastating queer communities of color. “In [’parTy & play’] community it has become a part of the norm,” Rice says in the trailer.

Brain function: the normal brain left. Meth brain, right. (Graphic from NIDA/NIH)

But the drug is not restricted to gay men. A new study from Chapman University “found that transgender teenagers are twice as likely as their cisgender peers to have substance abuse problems,” including crystal meth, according to a news report about the study, which published in the Journal of School Health. Researchers dove into results of the California Healthy Kids Survey (which 4778 transgender and 630,200 non-transgender students) in middle and high schools in nearly all school districts in California between 2013 and 2015. “Transgender teens were about 2.5 times more likely to use cocaine/methamphetamine in their lifetime, and more than twice as likely to report inhalant use as well as prescription pain medication use.”

“Transgender adolescents face tremendous social stress in families and schools, which often leads to behavioral health disparities,” Kris De Pedro, PhD, assistant professor at Chapman University and lead author on the study, said in a statement.  

“California is a unique context for exploring substance use among transgender adolescents,” the study noted. “California is one of the most racially, culturally, and socioeconomically diverse states in the United States. More than half of California public middle and high school students are nonwhite.”

For more information about the open community forum on crystal meth, go to Jeffrey King’s Facebook page  or call: 323-733-4868

a&e features

NBC Universal cancels Golden Globe awards broadcast for 2022

NBC Universal announced the network would not broadcast the 2022 Golden Globes awards ceremony

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Screenshot NBC coverage of the Golden Globes from previous years on YouTube

BURBANK – In the wake of an in-depth investigation into the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), the organization responsible for the Golden Globes by the Los Angeles Times, which revealed a lack of racial diversity among its voting members and various other ethical concerns, NBC Universal announced Monday the network would not broadcast the 2022 Golden Globes ceremony.

This past February ahead of the HFPA’s 78th Annual Golden Globes ceremony, HFPA board chair Meher Tatna told Variety magazine that the organization that the organization of international journalists which covers the film, television, and entertainment industry has not had any Black members in at least 20 years.

Actor Sterling K. Brown,  a Golden Globe winner and two-time nominee, posted to Instagram; 

Criticism of the HFPA, which puts on the Globes and has been denounced for a lack of diversity and for ethical impropriates, reached such a pitch this week that actor and superstar celebrity Tom Cruise returned his three Globes to the press association’s headquarters, according to a person who was granted anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the decision, the Associated Press reported.

“We continue to believe that the HFPA is committed to meaningful reform. However, change of this magnitude takes time and work, and we feel strongly that the HFPA needs time to do it right,” a spokesperson for NBC said in a statement.

“As such, NBC will not air the 2022 Golden Globes,” the spokesperson added. “Assuming the organization executes on its plan, we are hopeful we will be in a position to air the show in January 2023.”

NBC’s decision comes as Vogue reported that the backlash to the HFPA came swiftly and decisively. Some of Hollywood’s biggest studios, including Netflix, Amazon, and WarnerMedia, announced they were severing ties with the organization until efforts were made to increase diversity and stamp out corruption, while a group of more than 100 of the industry’s biggest PR firms released a statement in March in which they pledged to boycott the ceremony for the foreseeable future. 

The HFPA did not immediately respond to inquiries by media outlets requesting comment about NBC’s decision.

In February, the organization said it was “fully committed to ensuring our membership is reflective of the communities around the world who love film, TV, and the artists inspiring and educating them.”

“We understand that we need to bring in Black members as well as members from other underrepresented backgrounds, and we will immediately work to implement an action plan to achieve these goals as soon as possible,” it said.

HFPA also announced a full timetable through this summer for implementing promised reform initiatives in response to NBC’s decision.

“Regardless of the next air date of the Golden Globes, implementing transformational changes as quickly — and as thoughtfully — as possible remains the top priority,” the HFPA board said in a statement. “We invite our partners in the industry to the table to work with us on the systemic reform that is long overdue, both in our organization as well as within the industry at large.”

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Coronavirus

LA County expected to hit herd immunity by mid summer

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County could reach COVID-19 herd immunity among adults and the older teenagers by mid- to late July, public health officials announced Monday. Over the weekend LA Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that appointments are no longer needed for Angelenos to get COVID-19 vaccinations at any site run by the city.

Garcetti’s move is intended to give people who don’t have the time or technological resources to navigate online booking platforms a chance to get the shot.

The percentage of the population the County needs to vaccinate to achieve community immunity is unknown, however Public Health officials estimate it’s probably around 80%. Currently, 400,000 shots each week are getting into the arms of L.A. County residents, and there are over 2 million more first doses to go before 80% of all L.A. County residents 16 and older have received at least one shot.

At this rate, Public Health expects the County will reach this level of community immunity in mid- to late July and that assumes the County continues to at least have 400,000 people vaccinated each week. That would include both first doses that people need as well as their second doses.

This news came as Los Angeles Unified School District officials announced that attendance numbers at all grade levels in the District have been considerably lower than expected as extensive safety measures have failed to lure back the vast majority of families in the final weeks of school.

Only 7% of high school students, about 30% of elementary school children and 12% of middle school students have returned to campuses.

As of May 7, more than 8,492,810 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to people across Los Angeles County. Of these, 5,146,142 were first doses and 3,346,668 were second doses.

On Monday the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents 12 to 15 years of age. The Pfizer vaccine is already authorized for people 16 years old and older.

Pfizer’s testing in adolescents “met our rigorous standards,” FDA vaccine chief Dr. Peter Marks said. “Having a vaccine authorized for a younger population is a critical step in continuing to lessen the immense public health burden caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In a statement released Monday by the White House, President Joe Biden the FDA’s decision marked another important step in the nation’s march back to regular life.

“The light at the end of the tunnel is growing, and today it got a little brighter,” Biden said.

Los Angeles County will offer the Pfizer vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds once the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) affirms the FDA recommendation, which can happen as early as Wednesday. All adolescents 12-17 will need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian to get vaccinated.

To find a vaccination site near you, to make an appointment at vaccination sites, and much more, visit: www.VaccinateLACounty.com (English) and www.VacunateLosAngeles.com (Spanish). If you don’t have internet access, can’t use a computer, or you’re over 65, you can call 1-833-540-0473 for help finding an appointment or scheduling a home-visit if you are homebound. Vaccinations are always free and open to eligible residents and workers regardless of immigration status.

In the meantime, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that unvaccinated people — including children — should continue taking precautions such as wearing masks indoors and keeping their distance from other unvaccinated people outside of their households.

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Health

HHS takes steps to reverse Anti-LGBTQ+ healthcare policy

The announcement came minutes before a scheduled hearing before the U.S. District Court for Equality California’s lawsuit challenging the Trump-Pence Administration’s “Rollback Rule”

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HHS the Hubert H. Humphrey Building (Photo: GSA)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday morning that the Biden-Harris Administration will interpret and enforce Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Title IX’s prohibitions on discrimination based on sex to include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The announcement came minutes before a scheduled hearing before the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in BAGLY v. HHS, Equality California’s lawsuit challenging the Trump-Pence Administration’s “Rollback Rule.”

The Trump-era policy undermines the ACA’s nondiscrimination protections on the basis of sex — including pregnancy, gender identity and sex stereotyping — as well as protections for patients with limited-English proficiency and those living with chronic illnesses, including HIV. Because the issues in BAGLY v. HHS are broader than what the Administration announced today, the Court scheduled a hearing on the government’s motion to dismiss for June 3rd at 2:30 PM EST.

In reaction to the HHS announcement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement Monday:

“Today, the Biden Administration has taken essential and potentially life-saving action to affirm that all people in America have the right to quality, affordable health care – no matter who they are or whom they love.  During this time of pandemic and always, it is vital that the most vulnerable have access to care, including LGBTQ Americans, who have long suffered injustice and discrimination that has left them dangerously exposed to health risks.
 
“The Trump Administration’s decision to greenlight anti-LGBTQ discrimination in health care in the middle of a pandemic was an act of senseless and staggering cruelty, made in blatant defiance of our values and a Supreme Court ruling made just a month prior.  
 
“Congressional Democrats together with the Biden Administration are proud to uphold the equal right of every American to access the care that they need to pursue a life of dignity and health.  We must now build on this progress and enact the House-passed Equality Act to fully ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination in our nation.”

In addition to Equality California, co-plaintiffs in BAGLY v. HHS include Darren Lazor, The Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth (BAGLY), Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, Campaign for Southern Equality, Equality California, Fenway Health, and Transgender Emergency Fund.

Lazor is a transgender man near Cleveland, Ohio, who experienced numerous counts of discrimination from healthcare providers on the basis of his gender identity from 2012 to 2017. He is a member of Equality California. Plaintiffs are represented by National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), the Transgender Law Center (TLC), the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF), the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation (CHLPI) of Harvard Law School and law firm Hogan Lovells.

The lawsuit asserts that the new rule violates the Administrative Procedures Act by being contrary to law, arbitrary and capricious and a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Notably, it was published on June 19,  just days after the June 15, 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, which found that it is unlawful sex discrimination to fire employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The lawsuit also asserts that the new rule will embolden discrimination and harm LGBTQ+ patients and people seeking reproductive health care, further stigmatize abortion and other pregnancy-related care, harm patients with limited-English proficiency, especially immigrants, and harm people with chronic illnesses, including those living with HIV. The rule will also create confusion about the scope of protections against discrimination under federal law. 

Trans people, like plaintiff Darren Lazor, already face disproportionate discrimination in health care settings, including mistreatment by insurers and humiliation and harassment by doctors – problems that are exacerbated for trans people of color and trans people living in rural regions and the U.S. South. In seeking to deny trans people access to the healthcare they need, the Trump Administration had placed trans people, and especially Black trans women, in danger through deliberately harmful governmental action.

“We are thrilled by the news that the Biden-Harris Administration will take initial steps to reverse President Trump’s dangerous, discriminatory Rollback Rule, which undermined healthcare nondiscrimination protections critical to the LGBTQ+ community, and trans people in particular,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur.

“As the world recovers from a global pandemic, it’s more important than ever that every American have access to quality, affordable healthcare without fear of harassment and discrimination. We remain hopeful that under Secretary Becerra and Assistant Secretary Levine’s leadership, HHS will continue to take further steps to rescind the Trump-era regulation and address the harms that it has caused,” he added.

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