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Effort to Alleviate Pain Now Causing Pain for Millions

July 30, 2019

It Started As an Effort to Alleviate Pain…And Now It’s Causing Pain for Millions

If you’ve been in a doctor’s office in the last twenty years, you’ve probably seen it. It’s a chart of cartoon faces ranging from big smiles to frowns and grimaces. It first debuted in the mid-1990s, and it’s still used today to help patients describe the degree of pain they are experiencing to their doctors. The debut of the Wong-Baker Face Scale occurred at roughly the same time makers of pain-relieving medications known as “opioids” were assuring doctors that their products were safe and rewarding doctors who prescribed their products with trips to pain management seminars and other incentives.

For the next twenty years, pain management would be all the rage. Doctors who successfully managed their patients’ pain were given awards and celebrated. By 2011, doctors were writing nearly 238 million prescriptions for opioids each year. And the companies that manufactured and sold drugs like OxyContin, Vicodin, and Percocet got rich.

This Decade

It wasn’t until 2010 that the medical community realized something was amiss. Heroin deaths were on the rise, and nearly 80% of heroin users reported first misusing prescription opioids. No longer able to get opioids from their doctor, people who became addicted turned to the street – and to heroin – to get high. With the introduction of synthetic opioids like Fentanyl to the marketplace three years ago, we now find ourselves consumed by a full-blown epidemic. What started as an effort by doctors to manage pain for their patients has turned into people dying by the thousands in Philadelphia.

At the very heart of the opioid epidemic sits Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha, Inc. (APM). With a Behavioral Health Center right on 5th and Allegheny, APM currently sits right on the front lines.

And their leadership wouldn’t have it any other way. “APM has been working to address substance abuse issues in Philadelphia for nearly 50 years,” said CEO Nilda Ruiz. “In fact, APM was the first agency in Philadelphia to provide treatment for drug and alcohol rehabilitation designed specifically for the Latino population.”

Working alongside Ms. Ruiz is Dr. Cheryl Pope, a 9-year veteran who has seen first-hand how the opioid epidemic has changed the very fabric of the community. “The opioid epidemic is a public health crisis,” says Dr. Pope, “and it affects the whole family. When one family member is abusing drugs, it has a domino effect. We see children with anxiety, because their home environment isn’t stable. We see grandparents raising children grappling with additional stressors and depression.”

Building Strength

To bolster Dr. Pope’s team, APM recently recruited Dr. Hector Colon-Rivera. Dr. Colon-Rivera joined the APM team in February as the new Medical Director of the agency’s Behavioral Health Programs, with a goal of expanding the agency’s capacity to deal with the opioid crisis. As the co-founder and Co-Chair of CrearConSalud Inc., a nonprofit organization that supports and conducts non-partisan research, educational activities, and advocacy to increase public awareness of mental health and substance use disorders in Puerto Rico and the Latino/ community in the United States, he is a veteran of the war against opioid addiction.

Dr. Pope, Dr. Colon-Rivera, and their team of psychiatrists, health care providers, therapists, case workers, and peer support specialists agree that in order to combat the opioid crisis in Philadelphia treatment has to be holistic, comprehensive, and culturally-sensitive.

Nearly 3500 people seek APM’s help each year. Many are addicts in need of drug and/or alcohol treatment services. Others are family members in need of family therapy or support services as a result of a loved one’s addiction. APM’s professional staff recognizes the inter-connectedness of the families in Philadelphia and how the opioid crisis seems to seep through every crack weakening the foundation of the community.

“People come to us with a complexity of needs beyond just the presenting problem,” according to Dr. Pope. “No matter the point of entry, treatment can’t be successful if a strong foundation isn’t there.”

Making Real Change Happen — Community Wide

And building a strong foundation is a key element of APM’s core mission. As the Behavioral Health team works to address specific issues caused by the opioid epidemic, the organization’s other departments are working collaboratively to address many of the wider issues affecting the larger community. Family Services works to ensure children grow up in the safe, stable and nurturing environment they need to thrive. Housing Services works to provide financial counseling and affordable housing. Community Services works to combat income inequality and gentrification that continues to change the very nature of the communities in which they work.

“The issues faced by our community are large, complicated, and deeply intertwined,” says APM President and CEO Nilda Ruiz. “Only by taking a multi-pronged approach can we get to the root of our challenges and make real change happen.”

With 50 years of experience combatting drug addiction and related issues, APM shows no signs of letting up. The opioid crisis may have taken hold in Philadelphia, but the Behavioral Health team at APM is poised and ready to help. If you or someone you love needs help, all you need to do is ask. Call APM at 267-296-7200. Visit APM at www.apmphila.org. Follow APM on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Reach out. APM’s Behavioral Health Services Team is for everyone – including you.

Gift of Love Children’s Benefit: November 21, 2019

July 29, 2019

Save the Date!

2019 Gift of Love
Thursday, November 21, 2019
6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Union Trust, 717 Spring Garden Street

The APM Gift of Love Children’s Benefit is an annual gathering that celebrates bringing love, hope, and happiness to disadvantaged children and their families throughout the Philadelphia area. Each year, funds from the Benefit are used to provide a memorable holiday experience for nearly 6,000 children and their families, through a week of up to 12 holiday parties at nine APM locations. Each party features food and drink, along with musical entertainment and a “Winter Wonderland” featuring Santa’s Workshop. In addition, new, age-appropriate toys are purchased for the children, and each child has the opportunity to pick which toy she or he wants. APM is able to give this experience to children and their families because of the generous support provided through the Gift of Love Children’s Benefit.

For information about sponsorship, ads or tickets contact Felix Moulier, External Affairs Coordinator at 267.296.7335 or via email at felix.moulier@apmphila.org.

APM and Aetna Partner for a Day of Service

July 29, 2019

July 30, 2019, Philadelphia – Partnerships between the business and non-profit sectors continue to enhance communities.  A great example of such a partnership was the recent Day of Service co-hosted by Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha, Inc. (APM) and Aetna. The two groups came together to spruce up the Children’s Mission Inc. building and Rainbow de Colores Playground.  Located on Germantown Avenue, Children’s Mission Inc. provides food support to area residents.  Rainbow de Colores is a beloved community playground and handball court.

As part of their Summer Associate program, Aetna works to connect their interns with non-profit organizations that can partner in acts of community service that can have an impact.  At Aetna’s request, APM recommended the Mission and the Playground.  A team of 22, including Aetna staff, APM Community Connectors, and members of the community converged on the two locations with rakes, paintbrushes and other items for much-needed facelifts. The project took over 175 man-hours to complete, and the transformation of the spaces were remarkable.

APM was proud to partner with Aetna on a clean-up and green-up of these two community assets.

“When we form partnerships and come together for the betterment of the community, real change can happen,” said APM CEO Nilda Ruiz. “We look forward to continuing to work with our friends at Aetna and other business leaders who want to engage in our community to continue the progress we have made over the last 50 years.”

Photo Caption: Staff and Community Connectors from APM and Aetna partner to rehabilitate the Rainbow de Colores Playground. Photo Credit: APM

community-driven project community-driven project community-driven project

APM Celebrates Our “CFO of the Year” Rasak Azeez

July 25, 2019

Photo courtesy Philadelphia Business Journal – Paul Coker

We are proud to celebrate APM’s CFO Rasak Azeez! The Philadelphia Business Journal recognized Rasak in its July 2019 feature article, “CFO of the Year: Saluting the Leading Chief Financial Officers in Greater Philadelphia.”

According to the article, “…the CFO of the Year Awards honor the best and the brightest: these executives exemplify the professionalism, integrity, resilience, mastery of all the financial and people skills that make a great CFO.”

In addition to being honored in the publication, the honorees were hosted at an event at The Crystal Tea Room in Center City. Congratulations to Rasak Azeez!

Ad from PBJ issue

Battling the Opioid Crisis to Create a Healthy Community

June 1, 2019

City officials have stated clearly that “Philadelphia is facing the greatest health crisis in a century. Every neighborhood is being hit hard by an epidemic of opioid use and overdose.” But, you don’t have to tell that to Nilda Ruiz, CEO of Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha, Inc. (APM). With a Behavioral Health Center right on 5th and Allegheny, APM currently sits right in the epicenter of the opioid epidemic.

This isn’t new territory for APM. The organization has been working to address substance abuse issues in Philadelphia for nearly 50 years. In fact, APM was the first agency in Philadelphia to provide treatment for drug and alcohol rehabilitation designed specifically for the Latino population. APM’s Proyecto Nueva Vida (PNV) program provides intensive and regular outpatient services to adults. The Drug and Alcohol clinic offers family and couples therapy and can provide substance abuse treatment to individuals as young as 14 years old. APM staff is bilingual and culturally sensitive to meet the special needs of the area’s growing Latino population.

But even 50 years of experience hasn’t been enough to stem the tide of drug-related issues in the community, so recently APM called for reinforcements. Enter Dr. Hector Colon-Rivera. Dr. Colon-Rivera joined the APM team in February as the new Medical Director of the agency’s Behavioral Health Programs, with a goal of expanding the agency’s capacity to deal with the opioid crisis.

Dr. Colon-Rivera is a veteran in the battle against substance use disorder. He is the co-founder and Co-Chair of CrearConSalud Inc., a nonprofit organization with the goals of supporting and conducting non-partisan research, educational activities, and advocacy to increase public awareness of mental health and substance use disorders in Puerto Rico and the Latino/ community in the United States. He is also the coordinator of the Radio Vieques 90.1 FM Program, “Salud a Flote,” a 20 minute segment transmitted every Friday with the objective of educating communities in Puerto Rico on topics related to mental health and substance use disorders. He also serves as a clinical advisor for the Advisory on Alcohol and Other Drugs committee for the State of Pennsylvania, and he is the senior advisor for the Opioid State Targeted Response Technical Assistance for Puerto Rico.

“We are extremely proud to have someone of Dr. Colon-Rivera’s pedigree and cultural competence to serve our community, stepping up to the helm of medical director of the APM’s Behavioral Health Programs,” said Ruiz.

“The opioid crisis doesn’t only affect the individual, however,” Ruiz continued. “It affects the whole family, the whole community.” That’s why APM has re-doubled its efforts to help each family achieve their greatest potential.

Now, more than ever, APM’s programs are focused on creating a thriving, healthy community where residents are engaged and self-reliant. Whether they are helping 90% of their Pre-K students enter the school system at or above grade level in reading and math, helping families secure affordable housing, or promoting resident engagement through their Neighborhood Advisory Committee program, APM’s staff and volunteers have rolled up their sleeves and vowed to continue to fight for their community.

“We will celebrate our 50th anniversary next year,” said Ruiz. “When we first started, we were focused on helping people find safe, affordable housing. Now look at the neighborhood. Property values have gone from $55,000 to five times that.”

With this degree of success in their past, APM is poised to realize a bright future for the community they serve.

Ensuring a Future for Philadelphia’s Children – All of Them

May 29, 2019

May is National Foster Care Month – a time to acknowledge and celebrate the foster parents, family members, volunteers, mentors and professionals who help youth and children find permanent homes and connections. This is a special time for Asociacion Puertorriquenos en Marcha (APM), a Philadelphia-based non-profit dedicated to improving the quality of life in our community, because it shines a light on the vital work we are doing through our Pradera program.

In Philadelphia alone, there are nearly 6000 children in the foster care system. Each of them is looking for the same thing – a home.

“Every kid needs a place to call home,” says Igdalia Woodland, Resource Home Director for the Pradera Program, “and we’re working hard every day to help them find one.”

That work includes recruiting adults who are interested in becoming foster parents. According to Woodland, foster parents come from a variety of backgrounds. Some are young couples looking to build a family of their own, while other foster parents are older people whose own children have grown and flown. Prospective foster parents can also be single individuals. And while there are a number of statutory requirements, including being over 21 years of age and capable of passing a criminal background check, Woodland says the number one requirement is simple: a willingness to treat these children as their own and meet their individual needs.

Children in the foster care system come from varied situations. Some come from scenarios that are temporary; perhaps a parent is ill or incarcerated or otherwise not capable of caring for the child for a short period of time. In other cases, parental rights have been terminated, and the child is in need of a forever home. Foster parents should be willing to meet each child’s unique social, emotional, and medical needs.

“We know that navigating the foster process can be intimidating,” says APM CEO Nilda Ruiz. “That’s why we are here to help every step of the way.” The members of APM’s Pradera team are there to act as facilitators. They help train prospective parents, collect the requisite documents, create a satisfactory home environment, and troubleshoot during the approval process. The team at APM has successfully place 540 children in nearly 350 homes in the Philadelphia area.

But there is still a need.

Every day, more children find themselves in need of a foster parent to help fill the gaps. “We never have enough foster parents,” says Woodland. “The worst day is the day we get a call from DHS, and we have to say we can’t help.”

During National Foster Care Month, APM encourages adults in our community to think about whether they have room in their heart and their family for a child in need of a temporary or permanent home. While the ultimate goal of the foster care system is family reunification, foster parents play a critical role in ensuring every child in our community has the chance to thrive.

For more information about becoming a foster parent, contact Igdalia Woodland at (267) 296-7285.

APM’s Ruiz and Gray honored at PCA Conference

May 2, 2019

At the 2019 M. Powell Lawton Conference hosted by Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, the 2019 Lawton Award was presented to Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha’s President & CEO Nilda Ruiz and Senior Vice President of Community & Economic Development Rose Gray. At this year’s event, three panels addressed demographic changes in the city’s older adult population; challenges to providing appropriate services for these new populations; and approaches to working directly with these older adults and their family members.

APM is honored to be recognized and participate at this year’s event. Visit the PCA website here for more information.

PCA Conference May 2019 Ruiz

PCA Conference May 2019 awards

PCA Conference May 2019

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