A. MENTAL HEALTH & SUBSTANCE USE: REALITIES AND CHALLENGES DURING UNCERTAIN TIMES
Dennis O. Romero, MA – Regional Administrator, Office of the Assistant Secretary (OAS), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) - DHHS Region II
Monique Tula – Executive Director, Harm Reduction Coalition
Description:People with substance use disorders often have long histories of unmitigated mental illness and trauma. With very little access to the same treatment and support than their white counterparts. Black and brown people with substance use disorders are especially vulnerable to cycling in and out of correctional facilities and emergency rooms. This presentation briefly describes why harm reduction is an effective modality of engaging with people with substance use disorders that has the potential to restore hope, personal autonomy, and healing.
Session Summary: Mr. Dennis Romero mentioned the impact that COVID-19 and the civil unrest is having on Mental Health and Substance Use. He presented snapshots of the COVID-19 pandemic and he discussed the need to play close attention to the mental health issues but also the reaction to this pandemic such as suicide and overdose, grief and loss, staff fatigue, moral injury to providers, PTSD and isolation/loneliness. He mentioned how important it was to consider behavioral health providers as essential workers.
Ms. Monique Tula began her conversation around the need to heal the harms caused by racialized drug policies and the hold that the criminal justice system and prisons have on black and brown people creating conditions for vulnerable populations to live marginalized. COVID-19 has exposed the structural issues and exposed the impact on already marginalized lives. Harm Reduction allows to restore hope and healing on many of these marginalized communities. “We are suffering from collective trauma, that happens over generations and across communities like war, genocide, slavery, and epidemics like HIV and now COVID.”
Dennis Romero's Presentation | Monique Tula's Presentation Watch Recording
B. COMMUNITY PERSPECTIVES: ADDRESSING HIV, HCV AND STIS DURING AND AFTER COVID-19
Robert Contreras, MBA – President & CEO Bienestar Human Services
Bamby Salcedo, MA – CEO and Founder, TransLatin@ Coalition
José Joaquín Mulinelli – Executive Director, Coai, Inc.
Judith Montenegro – Program Director, Latinos in the South, Latino Commission on AIDS
COVID-19 has created additional challenges around barriers to care, economic survival, anxieties and fears for Hispanic and Latinx communities. In this presentation four community leaders, representing different regions from the United States and Puerto Rico, share their perspective and strategies on how to address HIV, HCV and STIs during and after COVID19 from direct services to policies and advocacy efforts.
Session Summary: Robert Contreras mentioned that in Los Angeles, COVID 19 has brought to the forefront some social deficiencies that Hispanic/Latinx and African-American communities face that make this population marginalized, vulnerable to poor health outcomes, discrimination, racism and subject to the lack of economic and social justice.
Bamby Salcedo, stated that has been necessary to adapt to this new situation and to maintain our doors open, even if only to be able to provide hot meals, alternating our staff. Since the pandemic started the calls to our organization have increased up 500%. We had to reach out to different foundations to invest in trans lives. COVID 19 is the perfect example why trans people need specific services.
José Joaquín Mulinelli mentioned that in Puerto Rico there are some structural challenges and limitations with the breakdown of COVID19 data about sexual orientation and gender identity, among other variables, and inconsistency of testing in the island by the Puerto Rico Department of Health. It has been a challenge to continue with the Ending the Epidemic plans while dealing with this global pandemic.
Judith Montenegro stated how important it is to know that the south, for many states almost a third of the population lives outside of urban areas which creates more challenges as we face the COVID-19 pandemic. Access to health care in the south has been limited because of the lack of Medicaid expansion, leading to hospital closure in rural areas, and consequently an increase of number of COVID19 infections. Telemedicine and telehealth are necessary in rural communities, and COVID 19 has catapulted its acceleration.
José Mulinelli's Presentation | Judith Montenegro's Presentation | Watch Recording