Elvis Rosado is a former addict and current Education and Community Outreach Coordinator at Prevention Point, a nonprofit medical group in Kensington. Rosado talked with PPR as part of our series on the Philadelphia Opioid Crisis. Interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Penn Political Review: Can you tell us a little about what you do at Prevention Point?
Elvis Rosado: For the most part, I do most of the overdose reversal trainings for Philadelphia and surrounding counties. I’ve been with Prevention Point for 20-something years. But I do an HIV education program, I do the overdose reversal stuff, and I do a mentoring program right now. But we don’t have one particular hat. Sometimes it’s as simple as security around the building. I’m unclogging toilets– one of the key things is that we do a little bit of everything.
PPR: Do you do a lot of health work in general, or primarily focusing on addiction?
ER: We have a nucleus, which is the actively using homeless individual. We also work with people who are getting into treatment. But the idea of harm reduction is that [taking into account] anything and everything that impacts this individual, what is the best way to make quality of life better for them? Is it helping them get an ID, get a shower, get some food or clothing, is it getting into treatment, is it making it to an appointment? I have driven people to the Social Security office to apply for the Social Security card, I’ve taken people to PennDOT. I’ve taken people to appointments. It all depends on what the situation is. I’ve gone out of my pocket to pay, and sometimes Prevention Point will go out of their budget, to pay for someone to go to New York or Florida or Boston because they have family there and that’s what Is going to help them. So it depends on, what is the piece that needs to happen to make sure that at the end of the day this person’s quality of life is at the best point possible? It could be anything, from buying them a sandwich to buying them a bus ticket.
PPR: What are the biggest gaps in medical and other resources right now? Do you know if Penn is playing a part in any of those medical resources?
ER: I know Penn is doing some work in addictions, but I couldn’t tell you exactly what. I can tell you this: the gap is financial, the gap is in treatment for certain populations, There’s a gap that’s a moral deficiency. When I say that I mean that we live in a society where people look at this population with disgust. And these are somebody’s kids. Somebody’s mother, brother, father, sister. And we have to remember at the end of the day, they’re still human beings. I know people that will go above and beyond for a dog or a cat, but they look at a human being and say “Ugh, I’m not helping you.” One of the key pieces is remembering that these individuals are human beings. And a little bit of compassion and love never hurt anybody.
PPR: Where do you See this community going in the next five or ten years?
ER: I think we’ll be repeating this scenario in a couple of years. Because a lot of people have clustered off. I was just talking to someone who was showing me pictures of all the people starting to live at 5th and Allegheny. There’s a park and a railroad there. So if we don’t address the situation, if we don’t give people adequate medical treatment and treatment for addictions, we’re going to keep repeating this cycle.
We can’t stop the drugs coming into this country. But we can do something about the demand for those drugs. Because most people don’t realize, we are 5% of the world’s population, The United States. We consume 95% of the world’s opiates. We are the main reason that the drug trade exists on this planet. Philadelphia by itself last year consumed 665,000 lbs of opiates. Both street drugs and prescription. We have to stop the demand and give people the tools necessary and the power to get themselves better so that they don’t have to deal with that.