"The Heart of the Matter"

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Transcripts: 498.1 to 498.5

Week: 498.1 Guest: Steve Hammer Topic: The Sanctuary and Project Life - Part One Host: Richard Roeder Producer: Ed Graham

NEMA This is a five part series on Project Life, a program designed to treat chemical dependency in an unusual environment, a hospital ship. My guest is chairman Steve Hammer.

NEMA Mr. Hammer, what is the Sanctuary and what is Project Life? The Sanctuary is a haven-class navy vessel that was built in 1944 to carry armor tanks to Europe. There were six of the haven-class vessels built. Immediately all six of those vessels were converted over to hospital ships. The Repose was one of those. The Sanctuary was one of those and the hospital ship Hope is one of those. The Sanctuary's missions as a hospital ship - in 1945 it took the first America POWs from Japan and then was basically put out of commission. It did not see service during Korea. It went back into service in 1965 and actually entered the South China Sea in 1967, saw service in Vietnam from 1967 through 1972 in ICORPS. After the Vietnam war, it was once again put into the James River and then the military had decided that they were going to send the Sanctuary to Greece as a support vessel and refitted the Sanctuary, $42,000,000 of it and then Greece left NATO. So the Sanctuary was once again parked in the James River. Project Life, actually Life International acquired the Sanctuary in let's say 1989 to go to third world countries. That program was difficult to fund and the secondary issue became at that point that its leadership left. We got possession of the Sanctuary two years ago and changed the name to Project Life and our mission is to serve the community here with this unique vehicle. It's a 522 foot eight-story vessel, 76 feet wide and it's designed as a support hospital.

NEMA What made you decide that a ship would work for your purposes?

HAMMER: The Sanctuary is unique. I can't even explain how I got involved in the Sanctuary truly to the extent that I am. It's as if it was pushed on me. The Sanctuary is unique in the fact that it sits at the end of a pier. We have no community involvement with the Sanctuary. We have no neighborhoods to deal with. The Sanctuary's again unique in the fact that it's an equipped city. It has three barber shops. It has three beauty salons. It has the largest dry cleaner in Baltimore. It has a kitchen that would serve 1000 people. In bed count alone, the Sanctuary would be the third largest hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. If you wanted to describe a perfect vehicle to combine treatment and job training, you would define it as the Sanctuary.

NEMA The basic focus that you have is not necessarily as wide range as the average hospital. Your main focus is on treatment for substance abuse, correct?

HAMMER: That's correct, Rich. We are looking at the Sanctuary as a vehicle that can re-educate people in inappropriate coping skills that they've learned.

NEMA Join me for part two on Project Life with Steve Hammer.


Week: 498.2 Guest: Steve Hammer Topic: The Sanctuary and Project Life - Part Two Host: Richard Roeder Producer: Ed Graham

NEMA This is part two in a five part series about a most unusual program for treating chemical dependency on the Sanctuary, a hospital ship docked in Baltimore, Maryland. My guest is Project Life chairman Steve Hammer.

HAMMER: We're looking at the Sanctuary as a vehicle that can re-educate people in inappropriate coping skills that they've learned. One of those coping skills is substance abuse and we look at that as learned behavior, we look at it as something that somebody's adjusted to and we look at it as something that they can get unadjusted to. We also understand that you can not take behavior from somebody without giving them new behavior, substituting behavior and also you can't take an illusional state without giving a state of reality that's at least acceptable. So what we hope to do is replace the behavior that says that they're doing drugs, alcohol or other behaviors that are inconsistent, substitute that with behavior that's more consistent and then allow them to vision their life, to dream and in those dreams it's not only finding jobs but perhaps finding businesses.

NEMA When I was reading the material about Project Life, my first thought was somebody must have called that "Hammer's Folly." Somebody must have tortured you in the way they did Robert Fulton when he said you could drive something with paddle wheels. Did you run into resistance when you came up with this idea?

HAMMER: Yes and no. Rich, I'm in recovery and as a person in recovery I've been hospitalized in my life maybe 20 or 25 times for chemicals and in those 20-25 times of hospitalizations and the extent of the damage that I did to myself during that period of my life it's difficult for somebody to speak to me about chemical addiction from a position of knowledge that I have so when I speak about the Sanctuary and I speak about addiction and I speak about these issues that I was confronted with and all of the surrounding issues, it's information that I've assimilated, information that I've lived. When I talk about the Sanctuary being an ideal vehicle to deal with that, I'm dealing with my life experience. That people had doubts on whether we could pull it off, people still have doubts whether we can pull it off and at times Richard, I still have doubts if we can pull it off. That we have a serious problem in chemicals, we have a serious problem in chemicals. That the Sanctuary offers a huge possibility in dealing with that, yes it does. Now can we make this happen? We hope and we pray.

NEMA How much conversion was needed to prepare the ship for your very specific purposes?

HAMMER: Very little. The Navy divides hospital ships - Navy vessels are divided by bulkhead. So it's automatically divided in three compartments, that you can't simply go from one end of the ship to the other end of the ship underneath it. We had defined a program as three components. We had pictured each one of those components as being a graduating phase where the person was both reinforced externally and self-internally as they moved through the program. Well the ship allows us to do that naturally. That we plan to have other programs on the ship such as a 100 bed chemical detox - that because of the size of the vessel can be put in a different place. You can keep populations separate. You can bring them together. It is truly a wish list place to be. To answer your question directly, yeah. You bet there were a whole lot of folks that were wondering whether we can do it.

NEMA Join me for part three on Project Life with Steve Hammer.


Week: 498.3 Guest: Steve Hammer Topic: The Sanctuary and Project Life - Part Three Host: Richard Roeder Producer: Ed Graham

NEMA This is part three in a five part series on Project Life, a program for treatment of chemical dependency on the hospital ship the Sanctuary. My guest is chairman Steve Hammer. I asked Mr. Hammer about the treatment success rate he hopes to achieve.

HAMMER: The overall success rate in the United States on recovery from chemical addiction is one out of ten. One out of ten people going through treatment get better. Now that is the NIDA, the National Institute of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, it is the overall actuarial figures that we're getting from another study down in College Park and it's also the figures that I know to be consistently true. So if we we're successful at 40% or 50% through behavior substitution and re-education, we would be something like 10,000% more successful than anybody to date.

NEMA To ask you to elaborate on that for a second, what does the word success mean? What's the threshold that you therefore say "I have been successful?"

HAMMER: "I have been successful" means that I have been chosen to change my life and live it in a way that's more consistent with the behavior of myself in my own fulfillment in relation to the society I live in.

NEMA And is there any question that in a sense that you would be willing to accept the word "well," is it possible for a person regardless of the number of bouts they may have had with this and the number of falling back into patterns that they had, can you get well?

HAMMER: I believe that anybody can get well. Anybody. I think that a couple of things have to happen. The first is something has to occur, whatever that something is. Now it's fascinating that the only successful program - overall successful program - in the United States or in the world in dealing with chemical addiction or within behavior modification because now it's being assimilated by a lot of folks for a lot of reasons is the 12-step programs. Now the 12-step programs work on three different relationships. The first part of the relationship that they offer is that you have to create a relationship outside of yourself. Now for the 12-step programs, that relationship is with a power greater than you. Using that relationship, you have to then create a relationship with yourself. Once those two relationships are created, you then share that relationship with other people. Now that's the only successful program. Now there are programs such as Delancy Street in California that has the most successful rate of people in it that we know of, dealing in a truly difficult population but their basis is not dissimilar to what I just stated. To answer to the question that I think you asked, I'll answer it this way. Chemical addiction is the only disease that I know of that to get better, you have to become a better person.

NEMA Interesting. Very interesting. Who will receive treatment?

HAMMER: Anybody.

NEMA But who do you expect to be treating?

HAMMER: We expect offenders. We expect to deal with people who are going through the criminal justice system for drug and alcohol abuse and related offenses. We expect to be dealing with people who are recidivistic, people who have failed other programs, people who are referred to us. A variety of folks. We are not saying no to anybody other than a very very minuscule population and we'll define that population as people who are truly predators.

NEMA Join me for part four on Project Life with Steve Hammer.


Week: 498.4 Guest: Steve Hammer Topic: The Sanctuary and Project Life - Part Four Host: Richard Roeder Producer: Ed Graham

NEMA This is part four in a five part series on a revolutionary treatment program for chemical dependency on the hospital ship the Sanctuary. My guest is the chairman of Project Life, Steve Hammer.

NEMA In the process of your overall program, you're talking about doing things like education, housing, jobs, financial planning. Talk about why that's such an important part of the recovery from substance abuse.

HAMMER: You can't take a delusional state from somebody. When somebody's doing drugs and alcohol, what their overall sense is is of well being because they're not in contact with any reality. If you're going to place them in contact with reality, you have to give them the opportunity of having that reality be acceptable to them. You can't just take without giving so when we talk about job training, we talk about the development of skills necessary where somebody can begin to develop a feeling of having a chance in life. When we talk about financial planning, we're talking about the comprehensive understanding of how you then interrelate with your society. When we talk about medical, we find out that one of the major things that people have a problem with in getting jobs is their teeth. We've got nine or fourteen dentistry stations on the Sanctuary that we just use for the National Guard, that the National Guard treated maybe 400-500 people in Baltimore for a two week period. So the Sanctuary can do all of that and each one of these things are necessary as part of the building blocks that somebody needs to change their life.

NEMA Do you have a sense of what kind of cost factor you're dealing with compared to a conventional environment? Is it more expensive, less expensive? Is it really similar?

HAMMER: Well it's less expensive in a couple of ways and then it's probably parallel the others. It's less expensive in that we own the Sanctuary. We have no debt service. We have no rent. We have no debt service. So in that we have zero occupation cost, all others will probably be relatively the same except that the Sanctuary is really easy to maintain. You can compartmentalize all of your costs with the Sanctuary simply because of the way it's divided. Every study that we've taken and every study that we've found on using Navy vessels for this type of treatment or task we seem to see that it's a lot better to use it.

NEMA Well it's always seemed to me an incredible waste of resources to have established structures like that out there and they're destroyed or sunk on a routine basis without being used. Do you feel like around the country you're being watched to see how this works and maybe somebody else will pick up the same idea?

HAMMER: Rich, we know we are. We've had phone calls from California that one of the Senators there from that state was interested in how we do here because he'd be interested in doing it. We also had a phone call from Seattle, Washington on exactly the same issue, that if this works, we want it to be replicatible and we have asked the doctors around us and also the other folks that are also establishing the programs to make sure that this blueprint can be done, that we're not creating something that says - "There is an unknown element in step three that nobody's really sure of." We want to make sure that all of this can be done by somebody else.

NEMA Talk a little bit about the schedule that you've set for yourself as far as future developments.

HAMMER: We've got a really great staff so there needs to be some separation here. Perhaps what I offer might be some points of vision in as far as the program but in pragmatic terms, the staff has actually defined for us the timing of what we're going to be doing.

NEMA Join me for part five on Project Life with Steve Hammer.


Week: 498.5 Guest: Steve Hammer Topic: The Sanctuary and Project Life - Part Five Host: Richard Roeder Producer: Ed Graham

NEMA This is part five in a five part series on Project Life, a treatment for chemical dependency conducted on the Sanctuary, a hospital ship docked in Baltimore, Maryland. My guest is the chairman of Project Life, Steve Hammer.

HAMMER: The staff which is Bernie Antkowiak and Heller Halpert have actually defined for us the timing of what we're going to be doing. Bernie comes to us as the assistant director of the Office for Appointment Development for the city of Baltimore and as one of the recognized champions of job training in the state of Maryland for the past 16 years and Heller is responsible for the development of funding for the programs and she comes to us from the Presidential Management Internship programs. So these folks are actually the ones that are saying "This is what's going to happen on this date, this is what's going to happen on this date, this is what's going to happen on this date, etc." My task might be to maintain the vision around those points. In '96 we start and in '96, two programs will come up and then I think that you'll see it work by leaps and bounds after that, that it will be a lot faster than we're anticipating.

NEMA You were very candid earlier in our discussion in saying that you've probably been hospitalized for substance abuse 20 or 25 times and what makes a person who's been hospitalized 24 times have the will to go a 25th time?

HAMMER: Actually you don't go to the hospital to get well and it's one of the paradoxes of addiction. You never go to a hospital to get well. You go to a hospital to get well enough so you can drink again or do drugs again. At least that's the way it was for me. I never went there with the intention of saying "I'll never drink again." Never went there with the intention of saying "I'll never drug again." I went there with the intention of saying "I can't do it anymore now and I got to get well enough to get sick again." In that process, that window, where people are in that point in their lives when they've simply run out of rope, if you can supply to them what they're looking for, whatever that is which is truly a lifeline that they understand where they're willing to hold on to, then you have the best window that you'll ever have in dealing with that individual.

NEMA Certainly the general consensus is that drugs and alcohol are at an all-time high - again lots of academics will argue about whether it is or isn't or it's a statistical anomaly, but I'm sure you see enough that convinces you it's not going away. There's a lot of funding cutting going on in Washington right now. Will this impact you?

HAMMER: No. We found out some interesting things. The first thing that we found out is that we have found no foundation in the United States, and I need to underline this, we have not found it - it's not to say it doesn't exist but we can't find it nor is it's history easily displayed - that has ever given to the treatment of substance abuse. We see foundations who have given to the development of research for substance abuse. We have seen foundations that give to a lot of things that may be around substance abuse but no foundations that we have found give to the treatment of substance abuse or for the development of the treatment of substance abuse. Not research but actually the development of, in other words, develop an infrastructure for treatment. Now we find that fascinating. It's like the king has no clothes and nobody's going to tell them. The situation has to get worse and get immensely worse. There's history out here. We've seen it before and we think we'll see it again but it certainly gives us a rational reason for what's going on right now.


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