We are extremely proud to share with you, that despite the new reality and challenges that COVID-19 pandemic represents, at Intercambios Puerto Rico we have maintained all of our services running non-stop even in the midst of stay-at-home executive orders by the governor of Puerto Rico. Even while most government operations, including the department of health came to a stop and everyone was mandated to stay at home, our stuff venture to the streets with protective gear and keeping safe distance to deliver not only safe injection kits and counseling, but providing much needed COVID19 safety equipment and information to a marginalized population who would not have received any information on how to protect themselves and be safe from COVID19 otherwise.
Even when methadone state clinics closed their doors to its participants in the days of the curfew, Intercambios Puerto Rico lead the way by keeping its mobile services up and running with all necessary precautions despite risking being subject to arrests and towing of its vehicles. Our staff understood that our participants were ever most vulnerable to this pandemic than others giving their living conditions (a large number lack proper access to housing and cleaning/hygiene facilities), have multiple health conditions and as visible drug users are bound to receive poor health care or be deemed less worthy of health care if resources are scarce. Our organization pushed the administration to name syringe exchange and HIV health/housing services as essential services and advocated with other syringe exchanges that they could/should continue provision of services despite the vagueness of the executive order on this respect. Our team did not stop providing services even for a week. We have been on streets providing services and advocating for those who most needed since day one of this epidemic.
We are saddened that our partners in health, Doctors Without Borders have finished their work in Puerto Rico for the time being. We are extremely thankful for all the knowledge and helped they so generously shared with our organization. Our staff received much need professional training in dealing with pandemic protocols and understanding how to integrate such protocols to accommodate service provision in our new COVID19 pandemic context. As part of this partnership, we were able to implement access to a medical doctor with a harm reduction perspective via telemedicine through our mobile units and when possible in person. We are working to be able to maintain that service and create even more access to medical services in person through our mobile comprehensive health services unit. We have also been busy developing relationship and memorandums of collaboration with government agencies and other services providers to be able to offer Naloxone access and overdose prevention to our participants. Overdose deaths in the island are high and have not been a priority, but we are working to make visible this reality and bring much needed prevention resources to our participants.
These are extremely challenging times. As the pandemic continues, we know that consequences of business closings and increasing unemployment will exacerbate the already thin support systems in place for those without means. Your help and that of our partners will be even more important as the emerging social consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic become more visible. We count on you to be able to be there for our participants every day, pandemic, or no pandemic.
A heartfelt Thank you and hoping that you are well. Stay safe and protect yourself and others.