COVID-19 and opioids: Fighting on 2 fronts amid national PPE shortage

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Prevention Point Philadelphia, a nonprofit on the front lines of the fight against the opioid epidemic is now at the center of another big public health crisis — COVID-19. 

In the midst of a nationwide shortage of protective gear, the organization, which provides services for thousands of people facing circumstances such as addiction and homelessness, says they're also in dire need of essential items to stay safe.

Jose Benitez, executive director at Prevention Point Philadelphia, says they’ve already cut back their services because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"What we've been able to do is transfer some of the care to telephone medicine. ... We're prescribing monthly rather than weekly. There are ways that we've adjusted to be able to meet people’s needs," he said.

Benitez says they're doing everything they can to keep their staff and the thousands of people they serve safe. However, he says, with the high-risk clients they serve, the staff is in dire need.

"We work in a vulnerable population. They may have other health concerns that puts them at higher risk for COVID. So we're trying to make sure that we keep everybody as safe as we can under the current situation."

Benitez says he realizes there’s a shortage of these items but if people can make them or if they're able to find extra to donate, the organization would gladly accept. 

"We, as a nonprofit, don't have enough personal protective equipment like masks, gloves, gowns ... certainly there's a need for more of that," he said. "There’s a need for us to find some additional funding to help us purchase those personal protective equipment."

He says they're trying to raise $200,000 just to fund the protective equipment they need. They're accepting financial donations online. They’ve also created an Amazon wishlist with necessities such as clothing and hygiene products.