Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI)
Copyright: 1998, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Author: Marilynn Marchione of the Journal Sentinel staff
Fax: (414) 224-8280
Pubdate: 27 Oct 1998


Norman "Tack" Hardrick is unsure when he hit bottom during the 30-odd years
he spent filling his veins with drugs.

During those years he stole from employers. Took advantage of family and
friends. Fathered five children by four women, between jail terms. Started
each day sick because he needed a fix.

"The worst I ever felt was when I got evicted and they took my son," he
said. "I remember him looking at me, and I couldn't explain it to him."

The low points are many, but Hardrick is clear about the high point --
Lifepoint, the needle exchange program run by the AIDS Resource Center of
Wisconsin. Its counselors persuaded him to get treatment and kick his drug
habit. This week, he celebrates being clean for three years.

Hardrick now works full time as a counselor assistant at the treatment
center where he once was a client. He's also a "poster child" for the AIDS
agency's efforts to get money from Milwaukee County to expand needle exchange.

"He is an example of the success of this program," said Doug Nelson,
executive director of the AIDS agency, "but the successes are far too few
in this community."

Numerous studies have shown that such programs reduce the spread of AIDS
from shared needles and do not increase drug use, but getting public money
for them has been controversial because opponents say tax money shouldn't
be used to support drug habits.

Currently there's a ban on federal funding for needle exchange. Milwaukee
officials allow city contributions to Lifepoint to be used for counseling,
not needles; but the County Board is considering a plan to give the program

With a budget of $150,000, Lifepoint reaches only about 1,500 of the
county's estimated 5,000 intravenous drug users. Nelson says more money
would allow more users to be helped.

The program has operated since March 1994 and has exchanged more than 1
million needles. Drug users must bring in dirty ones to get clean ones;
it's a one-for-one trade. Juveniles' needles aren't exchanged.

Workers also offer HIV testing, drug counseling and condoms. The program
won a national award for its success at preventing AIDS -- only 2% of
participants are HIV-positive.

Hardrick believes Lifepoint is the reason he's free of HIV; he tested
negative as recently as seven months ago. Two of his former "shooting
buddies" now have HIV, and another recently died of AIDS.

On the advice of a neighbor and fellow drug user, he started visiting the
Lifepoint van in late 1994. Johnson Banks, a former addict who works the
van and exchanges needles, called Hardrick "as hard-core of an intravenous
drug user as I've ever seen."

After five or six visits to the van, Hardrick gave in to Johnson, who
continually asked him, "Man, aren't you tired of this life?" and tried to
get him into treatment.

Hardrick had tried quitting before, "but it wasn't for the right reasons,"
he said. The first time was in 1984 as a condition of not being sent to
jail. The second was in 1993, "to please some people," he said. It didn't

"You have to want it," said Hardrick, who decided to go "cold turkey" and
to enter the Genesis Residential Treatment Center, 2436 N. 50th St., on
Oct. 25, 1995.

"It was hard, but I wanted it," Hardrick said. "I always wanted to stop
using, but for half of my life, I was high," and couldn't imagine life
without the drugs. "After I made it 90 days, I figured I'd try six months.
After I hit a year, I knew I wasn't going back."

Not all drug abusers, especially such longtime ones, can go clean that
abruptly. Two years ago, the AIDS agency started its own drug treatment
program that's aimed at harm reduction -- gradually getting a person to cut
down on the frequency and amount of drug use if the person is not able or
ready to stop.

Nelson estimates that about 10% of needle exchange clients try the
treatment program and about half complete it.

At Genesis, a live-in program, director Robert Stingley says he grew up
with Hardrick and used to use drugs with him. Stingley, who went clean 10
years ago, was elated that Hardrick recovered, too.

"He stayed sober for a year and came back and applied for a job. I hired
him," Stingley said.

When he's not working, Hardrick is a volunteer, riding the Lifepoint van
with outreach workers.

"People look at me like, 'If you can do it, I can do it,' " he said. 
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Checked-by: Mike Gogulski