We are happy to share wiith you some great news! We have recently been approved by local health authorities as as out-patient drug use treatment service provider. This has been years in the making. The local government agencies are highly bureaucratic and not generally atuned to harm reduction practices. So it has taken us a lot effort and time invested in procuring the designation and permits as drug treatment service providers. This in addition to already providing harm reduction and HIV prevention services, drug overdose training and wound care by a doctor at our mobile clinic. We are awaiting approval of our application to be able to provide buprenorphine as part of drug treatment with medication substitution.
We are also excited because in the past months and thanks to a new grant, we have been able to reach younger populations providing harm reduction information and HIV prevention in highly impoverished neighborhoods. This is the first time we focus on this population and it has been very well received by the communities.
Always thank you for your support. We look forward to continuing to have you on our side!
Together we are changing the world!
Once again, our beloved island was hit by nature in the form of Huracan Fiona. As island, we awaken to the reality that climate change is hitting us hard. In the last 5 years, we had 3 major huracanes and several earthquakes on top of dealing with the pandemia of COVID19. Recuperation after socio-natural disasters is slow and unfortunately in Puerto Rico, it is proving to be an uphill battle as we start to see the cumulative effects of a vulnerable infrastructure that is being hit by disaster after disaster when it is not back to even 70% recuperation. Communities once again, have shown us how local resiliency is built from the ground up, and how communities are quicker and more effective in responding to these situations. This is also why, at Intercambios we continue to bet on the mobile health model, taking drug user health services to communities where they are, and not expect to come to us on their own. When goverment infrastructure fails around us, these communities need services that come to them and help them rebuild their lives.
We are also working an colaboration with several local organizations to make visible the reality of the dire conditions that drug users and homeless individuals live, and how they are affected by these socio-natural disaster to an even greater extent.
We need your help to continue to provide these services and support our communities! This has been a short report but we hope to share more of our work and efforts in our next letter.
Getting to know our communities and bringing health to all members of our communities is one of the goals of Intercambios Puerto Rico's team. Although most of our programs focused on specific marginalized and vulnerable populations, we believe in and strive to bring health promotion to communities in general. Health is a human right and should be available and accesible to all members of society. The services that Intercambios provides, as a harm reduction organization, are health services that should be accesible to all members of society, regardless of specific life circunstances, but are not. For that reason, we hold periodic health fairs in the towns our team regularly visits during our mobile harm reductions services. These health fairs are a great opportunity to meet community members, create opportunities for collaboration with other health providers and health organizations and for our team to engage the community in educational discussions about the realities of drug use from a humans rights and social justice perspective. It is an opportunity to focus on health promotion and prevention from another angle and demistify the image some folks might have about what syringe exchange program actually does. It is a moment to celebrate and create community!
Here we leave with a few satisfied faces of our team members, excited to interact and work with our communities!
Your support is crucial to the continuation of this work! Thank you for your continued support!
At Intercambios Puerto Rico, Inc., we never stop our search to improve the quality and offer of services available to our participants. We are finally able to share with you that our long-held dream to open a harm reduction health clinic is finally become a reality. The health and medical services are being provided at our movil unit “La Movil”, by one of the newest members of our team, Dr. Elisa Pujals. Dr. Pujals is a family doctor that now joins our team of psychologists, a nurse, a clinical social worker and a case manager. These amazing team provides primary health services, along with vein care and psychosocial services, and will soon be able to provide drug substitution treatment in a harm reduction caring environment to participants who needed and wanted. In the near future, these services will be available, both at our movil unit and at our fixed site. We already have a location for our new clinic/office space in the town of Fajardo. This will be the first harm reduction clinic in the island offering primary health and full psychosocial services to our participants from a harm reduction model where they are they comprehensive needs are listening to and meet without judgment, prejudice, discrimination, or shaming. We share below some pictures with you of how this is coming along. This is perhaps the most ambitious project we have undertaking with the support of our partners at Direct Relief. This clinic specifically aims to cover the medical and mental health needs of drug users, homeless individuals, sex workers, but will also be available to the community in general. We aspire for it to be a safe space for our participants and inspiration for other services providers who may want to incorporate harm reduction principals into their practice and workspaces but have a hard time imagining what that might look like.
We also started a project that focuses on providing education and prevention services to youth, immigrants and the LGBTTQI+ community in the island. As part of this effort, Intercambios’ team will be offering workshops and talks about safe sex, sexually transmitted diseases, and drug use to share scientific evidence-based information to these communities, so they make informed decisions about their practices.
We thank you for your continued support and ask that you help us spread the word about these exciting news! In order to sustain these efforts, we need the help of people like you! It takes a village!
These last few months, we have been concentrating our efforts in raising awareness about the harsh reality of rising numbers of deaths due to overdose in Puerto Rico, just as in the United States. Previously we did not have numbers to back up what our staff was reporting and experiencing on the ground: the fact that Fentanyl hit the markets in Puerto Rico and that heroin and cocaine where being mixed with this potent substance. Our staff have been warning the Department of Health that our participants where reporting higher number of overdose fatalities and non fatal overdoses. Our concerns where no paid much attention to. Only recently did the government began to pay attention to our warning and in the last couple of month we have seen some numbers and reports by the department of health supporting the sad reality we were witnessing. That is, overdose numbers were on the rise and rapidly growing. Between 2017 and 2020, at least 1,060 people have died in Puerto Rico of a drug overdose. We believe this is still an underestimate. It was only in the last couple of years that the Forensic Insitute included fentanyl in their testing panel for drug overdose. We have been working non-stop to distribute Naloxone kits to community members as well as drug users, have trained hundreds of first respondents and clinical staff all accross the island and began a media and social networks campaign to make visible this reality.
With your support we are hoping to increase drug users chances to survive and leave healthy and dignified lives. Thank you for bieng our partners in these efforts.
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