Indoor mask requirement returns for San Diego Unified School District
S1: Some mask mandates are back. As San Diego's COVID numbers increase.
S2: The best chance to reduce your risk of serious disease is not to get it in the first place. Masks Absolutely work.
S1: I'm Maureen CAVANAUGH with Jade Heineman. This is KPBS Midday Edition. A new study dispels some myths about homelessness.
S2: Housing is a bedrock aspect of human life , and without housing , every other thing that we care about is undermined , whether it's educational outcomes or employment outcomes , health outcomes. Without housing , it's very hard to get good outcomes in any of those.
S1: California's attorney general cracks down on illegal evictions and more from the new season of the KPBS Port of Entry podcast. That's ahead on Midday Edition. San Diego Unified's indoor summer school classes have an added requirement today. Students and faculty have to wear masks again. So do staff and service members indoors at San Diego's military bases. The re masking has to do with the rising level of COVID cases and specifically hospitalizations in the county. San Diego has reached the CDCR highest level of COVID activity. The highly contagious Bay five variant of COVID is driving this surge of the disease and with summertime activities in full swing , including this week's Comic-Con. Health officials are bracing for what could be an even steeper rise in cases. Joining me is KPBS health reporter Matt Hoffman. Hi , Matt.
S3: Hey , Maureen. Great to be here.
S3: I mean , we're not seeing levels that are comparable to a winter surge , at least yet. You know , something that's sort of different about this one is in the past , when it came to cases and hospitalizations like in the winter , it was a very steep surge and it had a very steep peak and went straight down. This has been a more gradual incline , even when we talk about hospitalizations , too. So that's something that health officials are definitely taking note of here as we're in this summer surge.
S3: It's something that they can weather. You know , we've seen hospitalizations just in the last couple of months go from the hundreds now to four hundreds. It's something they can manage. But if it continues , it could be something that could be unmanageable , especially if these increases are for prolonged periods of times instead of the shorter periods that we've seen in some of the past surges. And they say that they're going to be strongly recommending masking even more now that we're in this high risk tier. And the county's deputy public health officer , Dr. Cameron Kaiser , says that he really wants people to be wearing masks right now.
S2: The best chance to reduce your risk of serious disease is not to get it in the first place. Masks absolutely work. They materially reduce the amount of virus she'll be potentially exposed to. Which means you're going to be less likely to be ill or accidentally give it to someone else. The better the mask , the stronger the protection. Please wear one.
S3: It's something that we knew could have been coming. I mean , they said before when they ended their mask mandate in April that if they were to go to the CDC's high transmission tier , that they were going to keep masking here. And we know that that's going to be for at least two weeks. But , you know , in all likelihood , we could still be here at the time of this of the regular school year starting , which is at the end of August. And we know even before that there's going to be things like athletic practices happening. So that mask mandate could be here for a while.
S1: I may be wrong , but it doesn't seem like health authorities are taking the news of the rising COVID levels as seriously as they would , let's say , last year.
S3: And , you know , I talked to an infectious disease specialist about this late last week. And , you know , she was saying , you know , early on , kind of to your point , when we saw spikes , there were swift reactions , maybe whether it be masking or even things like limiting capacity inside of businesses. Everybody remembers all those tiers. But she was saying , you know , we don't want to go back there. And when we've seen what the effect of closures can have on some of our youngest kids that are going through school , you know , not going to in-person school. Some of the other challenges associated with mental health or even employment , things like that , we don't want to go back there. And she sees this as health officials basically saying people are adults , they know what the risk is , they know how to protect themselves. And they're hoping that people , you know , see , hey , we're in this high risk tier. There's a high level of COVID , and it's time for San Diegans to respond to that. And if that means , you know , you have some big , huge indoor wedding planned , maybe that's taking that outside and doing some more precautions like that because the risk is definitely there.
S1: What about Comic-Con , though ? Tens of thousands of people are expected this week. A lot of activity is going to be taking place indoors.
S3: I'm not sure how that's going to work , especially with some of these costumes that are pretty intricate. And we don't know if it's going to be how , you know , how followed it's going to be by attendees or how strictly enforced. But it's definitely something we're going to have to be waiting to see. We do know , too , that if people are interested in going to Comic-Con , there's a lot of outdoor events to those cool activations outside. So there's options for people maybe who don't want to go near some of those big crowds crammed into like Hall H. They can do some stuff outside.
S1: Well , because the Bay five variant is so contagious , ten times more transmissible than other American strains.
S3: And talking to a different infectious disease specialist , there was a question asked about going to Padre games. It's a large outdoor event with a lot of people. He didn't say , don't go to a Padre game , but he said You might want to consider wearing a mask , especially maybe when you're walking and with a bunch of people like when you're first coming in the gates. But we do know that transmission is less likely outdoors. You know , it goes into the air quicker. It's definitely a concern , especially when you're but you're packed in with thousands of people.
S1: I've been speaking with KPBS health reporter Matt Hoffman. Matt , thank you.
S3: Thanks , Maureen.
S4: The root causes of homelessness are often attributed to drug addiction , mental illness or poverty. A new book , however , points to an entirely different conclusion. Homelessness is a housing problem. Written by co-authors Clayton Paige Alden and Greg Colburn analyzes many aspects of the country's growing unhoused population. As the title suggest , a lack of affordable housing is often the most significant factor that leads to homelessness. Joining me now is co-author Greg Colburn. Greg , welcome.
S2: Thank you , Jay.
S4: Great to be here. So your book outlines how a lack of affordable housing can really exacerbate homelessness in a given area.
S2: And that problem generally boils down to the fact that it's a very accommodating housing market in the sense that housing is expensive , vacancies are pretty low , and there's a pretty glaring lack of affordable housing options for people , and that has a direct link to increased levels of homelessness.
S4: There's been a lot of debate among experts and providers over whether housing or treatment needs to come first in order to address homelessness.
S2: And so , you know , there's there's kind of intuitive explanations that I'll talk about and then research explanations. The reason I study housing is because I think housing is a bedrock aspect of human life. And without housing , every other thing that we care about is undermined , whether it's educational outcomes or employment outcomes , health outcomes. Without housing , it's very hard to get good outcomes in any of those. And so when we start to talk about people who have various risk factors , meaning addiction or mental illness or other factors , trying to fix that without housing is incredibly difficult. And the research around Housing First , which is one of the primary homelessness interventions , is very , very compelling in the sense that if you can get people stably housed , then it's much easier to start dealing with other issues. Without stable housing , it's really hard to get people the help that they need because ultimately , you know , getting a good night's rest and having the safety and security of a home is is is really fundamental to improving people's lives , our life outcomes.
S2: And so when people walk around downtown Seattle or in San Diego or L.A. and they see unhoused people , many of whom are likely experiencing mental illness or addiction crises , it's easy to draw a linkage between that crisis and the homelessness. And the point of the book is that there are people who are addicted and mentally ill in every community around the country. But in many of those places , those conditions don't manifest themselves as homeless into homelessness. You know , Detroit has the most poor people in the nation. It's the most impoverished city in the country. And yet they have far lower rates of homelessness than West Coast cities do. Why is that ? Because housing is available. West Virginia is the home of the opioid epidemic , and they don't have nearly the homelessness problem that we do here. So really what's important is the context in which these conditions occur. And so the fact that we're seeing people on the street with various vulnerabilities and risk factors shouldn't surprise us because there aren't enough houses. And if you are vulnerable , you're far more likely to not end up with housing. And so we end up equating these experiences , these anecdotal experiences with the fundamental driver of the crisis , which , in my opinion , is misdiagnosed. I understand why people end up with that conclusion. I just think it's a faulty conclusion. If we continue to kind of beat the drum of treatment , we're not going to fix this problem. We can't treat our way out of this , do we ? Do we have a societal and moral obligation to treat people who have issues ? Absolutely. Absolutely. But we're fooling ourselves if we think treatment alone will end the crisis of homelessness.
S2: And what you'll see is when you look at per capita rates , we're talking about on a percentage basis here , the lowest per capita rates in the country tend to be in the Midwest and the South. And that correlates pretty highly with places where housing is fairly abundant and and affordable and where we start to see that not be. The case is on the coasts where housing is much more expensive and less available. And so , you know , it would be great if there were other explanations to say that we could really figure this out through other means. But the reality is , is really the pathway here is is pretty clear in the sense that we have to make sure that there's sufficient affordable housing.
S4: Were there any major myths about homelessness that you wanted to dispel with this book ? Yeah.
S2: We talked a we went through kind of all the conventional explanations and we we had. Yes. The issue that it's not that we have more people who are poor. It's not that we have more people who are mentally ill or addicted in West Coast communities. We also look at weather and we dispel the myth that weather causes homelessness. There are plenty of places that are cold , like New York and Boston , that have high rates of homelessness. There are warm places like Miami that don't have homelessness. We also look at the politics around it because this is a politically charged topic. We frequently hear , especially on the West Coast , that it's democratic policies that cause homelessness. But what's interesting is we had 30 cities in our sample , three of the largest cities in in the United States. And generally speaking , when you look at what political party runs cities in United States , it's Democrats. And in fact , I think it was 92% of the time Democrats were in charge , actually. San Diego was one community where there was a Republican who was a man who was mayor. Miami had a Republican mayor briefly , and in New York had Mayor Bloomberg when he was an independent. But generally speaking , Democrats run cities. And so if we want to blame Democrats , that's fine. But then we would need to also explain why Democratically run cities like Chicago , Detroit , Saint Louis , Cleveland don't have a problem with homelessness. And so the point is , is that it's a convenient explanation , but it doesn't hold up to scrutiny. When you when you when you test it a little more deeply.
S4: Greg Coburn is co-author of the book Homelessness Is a Housing Problem. Greg , thanks so much for joining us.
S2: My pleasure.
S1: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen CAVANAUGH with Jade Heineman. KPBS analyzed more than 20 years of records relating to use of force incidents involving police in San Diego County. Investigative reporter Clare TRAGESER found a clear trend. Officers are far more likely to shoot if the suspect is a person of color. A warning this story has graphic descriptions and sounds.
S5: What's he wearing on.
S6: An early evening in July 2017 ? La mesa police officer Jacob Whistler was searching in City Heights for a man suspected of homicide. Whistler jumped out of his patrol car when he spotted Derrick Henderson walking along Altadena Avenue. Whistler chased Henderson into an alley.
S5: He's not showing me his hands. He's not compliant. I thought he was trying to lure me into the alley.
S6: This is from an interview Whistler did later with police investigators.
S5: He starts digging into his waistband. He's not running. He seemed to be buying time to get something to me , but he was trying to get out of his waistband.
S6: Moments later , the officer fired several shots at the unarmed Henderson. None of the rounds hit him.
S2: Just kind of a non-emergency. But we've got a trespasser. Would be a homeless , homeless guy. He's refusing to leave. Yeah , he's not going to leave.
S6: Roughly two years later , a worker at BNSF Railway on Cesar Chavez Parkway called the San Diego Police Department. When officers arrived , 65 year old Douglas nephew grabbed a fire extinguisher and sprayed them , according to a police report. Police ordered nephew to stop. Instead , he walked away first , picking up a ten foot wooden stick , then several railroad spikes. Moments later , nephew threw a spike in officers , but they never drew their guns. Instead , they used beanbags , pepper balls and finally a police dog to subdue him. Why was Henderson shot at when police used less than lethal force on Nephew ? That's impossible to know for certain , as each interaction with police has its own set of circumstances. But there are two clear facts. Henderson is black and nephew is white , and what happened to each of them tracks with a long running trend in San Diego County and across the country. A KPBS analysis of records shows that when suspects were people of color , police fired their weapons 64% of the time when they were white. Just over 48% at the time.
S5: When we zoom out , we're not surprised by these findings. Right.
S6: Right. DeRay McKesson is a civil rights activist with the advocacy organization Campaign Zero.
S2: The racial disparities.
S3: Show up in almost everything.
S5: That we measure and things that we don't measure. We are confident that people's lived experience is also true.
S6: Similar to the KPBS analysis , research done at USC shows that people of color are shot more often , regardless of the circumstances. Brian Finch led that research.
S3: These disparities that you're observing are real and not necessarily just dependent on different types of crime being committed by or different types of stops occurring for different demographic subgroups like black and white citizens.
S6: Several local programs are attempting to tackle these disparities and make it less likely that police use lethal force in general. In March 2019 , San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan rolled out an eight hour de-escalation training program for local law enforcement agencies. And now most officers have taken it. Stephan says early signs are encouraging.
S1: Despite the fact that more and more people have guns. And now we're seeing that more and more people have also ghost guns. So it is a scary situation out there for officers. A lot more guns on the streets. We're still seeing this. The numbers go down a bit , which is very encouraging.
S6: But she would want five years worth of numbers to say it's a trend. Local police departments have made their own policy changes , many of them mandated by the state. They include new training on non-biased policing , de-escalation and leadership and community outreach. That's DPD has updated its use of force policy to require that officers make specific efforts to de-escalate the situation before drawing their guns. But for many in the community , it's too little , too late. There's racism among police officers that can't be overcome with training , says Darwyn Fishman of the Racial Justice Coalition of San Diego.
S2: If he's coming in to San Diego and learn , southeast is where the gangbangers are.
S3: And you got to keep your head up because they're going to be shooting at you.
S2: Then , yeah , you're not going to be surprised. He's going to more likely use lethal force.
S6: Fishman says police first resisted body cameras , but now generally view them as essential to their job. He hopes that soon police will embrace de-escalation in the same way.
S2: It can't be smoke and mirrors. There has to be substantial change , he says.
S6: That will lead to more trust in the community and fewer people killed.
S1: Joining me is KPBS investigative reporter Clare TRAGESER. And Clare , welcome.
S6: Thank you.
S1: So in this analysis of use of force incidents , you did. Just review written reports you viewed after incident interview tapes from police , it sounds like. Is that true ? Yes.
S6: For for all of these cases , police are required by law now to produce not just the written reports , but any interviews that they do with officers or witnesses , walkthroughs and then body worn camera or surveillance video , basically anything related to the case.
S6: But one thing that that did stand out to me is a lot of times if a shooting happened in maybe a lower income area , the the report leading up to the shooting would say we were dealing with a known gang member or , you know , looking in a known gang area , things like that , where it kind of builds up in in the officers mind maybe before they've even interacted with the person that they're dealing with , someone who might be more dangerous.
S6: So finally now , four years later , after the law actually went into effect , we finally have all of the records from the San Diego Sheriff's Department. They were kind of the last holdout , to be fair to them. They did have more records than anyone else and all of the local police agencies as well. So San Diego , Coronado , La mesa , Carlsbad , everyone , basically now we have all of their records.
S6: They maybe only had one or two or , you know , four or five shootings over the length of of the time that I was looking at. So it doesn't really seem fair to do a statistical analysis on those because it's just such a small number.
S1: So give us a sense of what the police de-escalation training entails. Right.
S6: Right. So I have done full stories on this in the past , which listeners can can look up if they want far more information. But a lot of it has to do really with actually the the approach that officers take when they very first interact with a suspect. And a lot of that is about keeping themselves safe , not putting themselves in a position where they have to escalate and use force. So when you're approaching a suspect , you may be use your car door or your car to kind of block yourself. You don't just run up to someone. You , you know , talk to them more slowly , approach them from further away. Have one officer who's doing all of the communicating. So it's not confusing things like that that , you know , if someone is is dealing with maybe a mental illness or is on a substance that won't won't make them scared and kind of lash out and also keeps the officer as safe as possible when when beginning that interaction.
S1: But is there any training to address prejudices based on the race of the suspects ? It seems that that would be the specific attitude that needs to be eliminated for real change to happen.
S6: Yes , departments are also working on doing , you know , what's called implicit bias training , things like that , where where you're trying to attempt to to deal with , you know , maybe systemic racism or biases that that people have. But obviously , as anyone knows , that's , you know , a very difficult thing to to see change from from quickly , especially just even the way that police departments are set up or the experiences that people have had over their lifetime. It's it's a huge challenge. But , yes , departments are attempting to to deal with that in in some types of training.
S6: And this was actually surprising to me because I have done a lot of reporting on on local police departments. And usually it's kind of a a no comment or , you know , declined to comment on this. But in this case , both the sheriff's department and the police department really wanted to make the point that that they are trying to change things and that they have all of these new programs. New initiatives. And , you know , it felt like they were saying a little bit in some ways that it's not really fair to look at records going back all the way to year 2000 because things have changed , you know , over the last few years. And I do address that in the story , especially with District Attorney Summer Stephan saying , you know , that it's too early to really see if there is a trend from this de-escalation training and other programs they're doing. But I think that the department's really wanted to make the point that that they are trying.
S1: This is the first of a two part report. What's coming up tomorrow ? Sure.
S6: So tomorrow I'm going to be looking again at all of these records that have been released and looking at how infrequently officers are charged , criminally charged for four shootings or using excessive force. And beyond that , also just even disciplined , fired. Any any kind of of discipline related to a use of force incident.
S1: I've been speaking with KPBS investigative reporter Claire TRAGESER. And Claire , thank you so much.
S6: Thank you.
S4: Each year , thousands of Mexicans living in the U.S. return to Mexico. Life can be challenging if they haven't lived in Mexico since being a small child. Many returnees are U.S. high school grads , and some have undergraduate degrees. Max Rivlin Nadler reports that roadblocks and layers of bureaucracy make it almost impossible to get their UC coursework recognized.
S3: Nancy Landa was born in Mexico and came to Los Angeles as a child. She always did well in school and was the first ever Latina student body president at Cal State Northridge. After college , she worked for a California assembly member. One morning in 2009 , while driving to work , she was pulled over by ICE agents for being in the country illegally. That night , she was deported to Mexico with nothing. Now living in Tijuana , she had to begin building her life back from scratch. She took the only job she could find at a call center.
S6: For me , that was sort of like a.
S1: Blow because I said , okay.
S6: I had a university degree , five years of working.
S1: Experience of.
S6: U.S. managing projects , and then.
S1: The best job I could get was answering phones.
S3: Wanda still wanted to follow the dreams she had in the U.S. obtaining a master's degree in public policy. But to continue her studies , she'd need something called in a past deal , a complicated verification process that Mexico needs in order to validate the previous courses of study. So not all of her credits from college transferred.
S6: And at.
S1: That time the assessment was , well , we cannot count your entire U.S.. Education.
S6: Education. We can only count.
S1: Between 40 to.
S6: 60% of your education. And we have.
S1: To continue to take more courses. And for me , that was ridiculous to to start almost from from scratch on that. And so I refused to do that. And that's why.
S6: I look for.
S1: Opportunities elsewhere.
S3: Landa ultimately went to the United Kingdom to finish her graduate work. Daniel Munoz , unlike Linda , was a dreamer. That is , she had protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals , also known as DOCA. She was raised in Houston , attending school all the way through community college. But after her father got sick in 2018 , the family returned to San Luis Potosi in Mexico. She tried enrolling in university there , but just like Lander ran into difficulties.
S1: Yeah , I could easily show my degree from Houston Community College and then I have a lot of acceptance letters still there from different colleges. So yeah , I was a little mad.
S3: Eventually , Munoz reached out to dream in Mexico. There a group of returning Mexicans that helps others navigate the country's higher education system.
S1: I started looking online and I found them on Facebook.
S6: I went and.
S1: Clicked on their YouTube videos and stuff , and I was able to talk to one of the , I guess , the leaders of the group. And he sent me everything , like a guide to get all the paperwork done here in Mexico.
S3: Daniel Arenas is a co-founder of Dream in Mexico. He grew up in South Carolina in the early 2000s before Dacca because he was undocumented. Arenas wouldn't qualify for in-state tuition or financial aid. Attending an in-state school would cost him $20,000 per year. When I was in high school , I wanted to go to college. It didn't matter what country it was in. I really wanted to go to college and it didn't matter if I had to go to another country and be away from my family. So instead he enrolled at the Instituto Tecnologico in Monterrey , Mexico , where he paid half that. He stresses that returning to Mexico for education is still a good option. A lot of dreamers in the US , they think that there's not great universities in Mexico or that it's not possible , or that your education that you have in the U.S. , it's not going to it's not going to be valid in Mexico. So you can't even go to college. That's where we have.
S5: To change things and help people by kind of helping them think outside the box.
S3: Nancy Landa , the former Cal State Northridge student body president , eventually got her degree in public policy from University College London. She now works as an advocate to improve the ability of students to stay and study in Mexico. By making it so difficult for Mexicans to continue their studies. Landa says Mexico is missing out on a lot of talented students. Some give up and never go back to school. She says it shouldn't be this hard for the world. I'm sort of when.
S4: ADLER That report was made possible by a grant from the Lumina Foundation supporting a series of radio features that tell the stories of how immigrants across the nation are grappling with navigating complex higher education opportunities. Attorney General Rob Bonta issued a recent warning to landlords and new guidance to law enforcement handling self-help evictions. In short , landlords can't use unlawful measures to evict or lock out tenants , and law enforcement has a responsibility to protect tenants. Nearly 1.5 million renters in California are at risk of eviction. And here in San Diego , the Legal Aid Society says they're seeing a surge of people needing help with evictions. So what are the rules ? Joining me is Gilberto Vera , senior attorney with the Legal Aid Society of San Diego. Gilberto , welcome.
S2: AJ , Thank you for having me here today.
S4: So the California Department of Justice said it is seeing an increase in landlords trying to evict tenants illegally.
S2: And so those types of tenants might move out. And to avoid to avoid , you know , ICE or some other law enforcement agency to come out or potentially deport them. And so there are various types of self-help evictions , the lockout , where , you know , it could be the landlord physically changing the locks while the tenant is out of the property. It could also be constructive evictions where either through landlord threats of illegal action , such as calling ice , is actually a crime for a landlord to try to call an immigration agency to remove one of their tenants. And the other types of tactics for constructive eviction might be shutting off utilities , water power , essentially forcing the tenant to move because it's no longer habitable to remain in the property.
S2: That court order cannot be obtained until the end of an eviction case. So before a TED before a landlord even gets to the end of an eviction case to get that order , the landlord must serve a valid notice to terminate the tenancy. Right , depending on the reason why they want to evict the tenant. There are various reasons and some some statewide restrictions that limit the reasons the landlord evict you. So a landlord must have a valid reason. The most common now currently are right are and generally are non-payment of rent. Maybe they're breaching the term of the lease , or maybe the tenant is doing something criminal illegal on the property. Those are known as eviction. We also have no fault evictions , which is when when the landlord wants to terminate the tenancy because they want to move into the property or family member or there needs to be substantial remodeling of the property. So there's various reasons why landlords can evict you , but the landlord must have a valid legal reason to evict you , must serve you the proper notice and the notice. The type of notice depends on the reason they're within you. That notice must expire , and if the tenant doesn't move out after the expiration of the notice , the landlord has to file the eviction lawsuit known as a lawful detainer with in the courthouse.
S2: And so that , I think , is one of the main reasons we saw a sharp increase in these illegal lockouts. Sometimes it's not always I mean , even though the landlord may be breaking the law , I'm not excusing their behavior. Sometimes it's because they don't know the law. Right. And so some landlords know the law and know the process and are purposefully intimidating tenants with your property. Others , especially throughout the pandemic , since there's been all these different laws at the local , state and federal level. Some landlords just didn't know , don't always know what the process is to evict the tenant. Right. It doesn't excuse their behavior , but it's one of the reasons that I think it's contributing to these illegal lockouts.
S2: One is a no fault eviction moratorium , which further limits the no fault reasons a landlord can evict you. And the no fault ones are essentially when a tenant hasn't done anything wrong , right ? They're paying the rent. They're not doing anything illegal , the law abiding by their lease and a landlord still wants to terminate them. So the eviction moratorium limits the reasons why landlords if you currently for no fault one being if they if if they're making you because they need to do remodeling the landlord must obtain the permits necessary and there has to be a government or court order necessitating the tenant to vacate because there's some imminent threat to their health and safety. The other allowable types of no fault eviction are owner move and those are still allowed within the city of San Diego limits. The landlord just needs to provide a 90 day notice indicating that they're moving in or a specific. Close relative is moving in so they can terminated tenant's tenancy and the last one is known as withdraw from the rental market. It's one of the landlord decide I'm not going to be in the business of being a landlord anymore. I don't want to manage property. It's their right under state law to terminate a tenant for that. The City of San Diego currently requires a six month notice to terminate those types of tenancies. And that eviction moratorium is currently in effect either through September 30th or 60 days from when the mayor lifts the local state of emergency , whichever occurs sooner.
S4: I've been speaking with Gilberto Vera , senior attorney with the Legal Aid Society of San Diego. Gilberto , thank you so much for joining us.
S2: It was my pleasure.
S1: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen CAVANAUGH with Jade Hyneman. In the latest excerpt of KPBS Port of Entry , podcast hosts Natalie Gonzales and Alan Lilienthal explore how thousands of people cross the US-Mexico border every year to take a psychedelic known as ibogaine , a drug that may help some kick opiate addiction. We follow one man with an addiction issue as he takes this trip and meets others that are trying to overcome their own drug habits. Here's recovering substance user Timothy Mark Tanko.
S5: So in 2008 , I developed an addiction to OxyContin and that got like really , really bad. My oxycodone habit was probably seven or $800 a day habit. Jesus. Yeah. I was taking enough to kill a horse. Wow. Yeah. How'd you sustain that ? That's a lot of money. I was selling them to pay for them. And then in 2013 , 2014 , I started taking Suboxone. And I've been on Suboxone ever since. And I never realized what a nightmare it is to get off of Suboxone. Suboxone is a medication used to treat opioid addiction. But like Tim says , it has its own addiction issues. You know , like I was always a functional addict. I maintained a job the whole time , pay my bills , you know , I even even built my credit. But the Suboxone got me back to total , normal life. You know , I wasn't run in the street selling drugs. And tonight and waking up in the morning and going to work. So I was just living a normal life , waking up , going to my 9 to 5 , coming home , doing what normal people do , you know. But next thing you know , almost ten years went by. You know , it's 20 , 21 now. And like , that just blew my mind when I thought about it. And I didn't want to be on Suboxone in my fifties or sixties. You know , I'm 46 now , so.
S1: But I begins with some interesting work if you're trying to get off Suboxone. So in order to do the treatment , you went back to opioids for the 60 days before he came to Rosarito. And even when he arrived.
S5: I was high the day I went in. I don't know. I must it took like 350 , maybe 400 milligrams of oxycodone before I went. I was popping them at the border and then I threw my stats away at the border. At the border on the Mexican side to meet up with a clinical psychologist , a guy named Armando Camacho. Yes , sir. Amanda , nice to finally meet you. Hey , how you doing ? I'm doing great. How you guys doing ? Good. This is if this show on the sir.
S1: Driving through the streets of Tijuana team in Armando headed to the neighborhood called Baja Malibu , near the beach where the clinic is located. And Tim wanted to know how Armando got involved with Ibogaine.
S5: I began through Airbnb. What ? See , Armando is a psychologist , but he also has a side gig as an Airbnb host. A few years ago , one of his guests got stuck in a ditch , like , really , really stuck. We like he was in a ditch. It was like a really bad ditch.
S1: And as they waited 4 hours for a truck to come to pull this guy out of the ditch , the Airbnb guest told Armando all about his ibogaine clinic , where he was working and convinced him to come check it out.
S5: So Armando went to the clinic and met a woman who was struggling with heroin addiction. And when I saw her , she. She looked like a zombie. She. I just see her face , and it was just like like it was , you know , it was bad. She said , I feel like I've been doing I've been trying to get off of this thing for almost 20 years now , and nothing has worked out.
S1: A man that worked in more traditional drug rehab clinics at the time. He knew all about the 12 steps and how rehab worked or didn't work. So he was skeptical. And then he saw this woman after her ibogaine trip.
S5: And then I went back in three days , completely different person , just her attitude. And she was happy. And she was , you know , she was she was completely different energy. And I told everyone I want in. I'm like , I want to , you know , help people. I yeah , I want in. This is Bob Marley. Yes , this.
UU: Is the one of the entrance to it. Yeah.
S5: Yeah. This is cute. Yeah , it looks like good surfing. They look like good tacos , too. Looks like a very fancy community. We're entering through a gate and. Yeah , it looks very well designed and well built. Very new , right ? Yeah. That's a gorgeous view. Yes. This is all the clinic , five acres. We have a lot of projects we have. We want to do a continue care. We want to build a house here for people that are not ready to go back to home yet. We want to build a pathway so you can go around the clinic on a bill to gym. We have the sauna , we have the Jacuzzi. We'll give you a tour. I'm not gonna. Yeah. The clinic is like a beautiful spa overlooking the Baja coastline. Take a quote. Transformation vacation , the website says Where Natural Medicine meets spa.
S1: But it is pricey. A seven day treatment at this place will run you about $8,000. And of course , none of that is covered by insurance because , well , it's illegal in the U.S..
S5: But , um , but yeah , this is this is pretty much one of the biggest rooms we have where we've had famous rappers talking all over the place and in addition to the sauna and Jacuzzi. Psychologist and reportedly great food. The clinic is staffed by doctors and EMTs who put clients through a series of tests before they are administered the drug.
S1: And the clinic is equipped with crash carts in case of possible serious cardiac side effects from ibogaine. Yeah.
S5: Yeah. And over here on this side , we have most of the rooms. Tim will be this one. They're just getting it ready. Yeah. Nice stuff. Yeah. And you have. You'll have an ocean view. There is little scientific or medical research on the efficacy of the drug in curing or treating addiction. And there are risks. Again , it's not legal in the U.S. so it is very difficult to carry out the kinds of tests and trials that need to be done to even get close to legalizing the treatment in the U.S..
S1: Ibogaine is categorized as a Schedule one drug in the U.S. , which means it is a drug with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. One of the few people who has studied ibogaine treatment for drug detox is Thomas Kingsley Brown , a researcher at UC San Diego. He followed 30 people for a year after undergoing ibogaine treatment for addiction at a clinic in Bath.
S5: He says anyone considering crossing the border for ibogaine treatment should make sure the clinic is taking adequate safety precautions there.
S2: There is some hard work toxicity with ibogaine and preferably during treatment. There should be someone who is trained as an EMT or or a medical doctor.
S1: Brown estimates that since the early 1960s , at least 30 people have died after taking ibogaine. Maybe not directly as a result of the drug , but as Brown puts it , that's secured in close temporal proximity , like pretty much around the same time as taking the drug.
S5: At the same time , he also estimates that between 15 and 20,000 people have been treated safely with ibogaine.
S1: Port of Entry is co-hosted by Natalie Gonzalez and Alan Lilienthal. You can listen to the full episode at pbs.org or wherever you listen to podcasts.