PUEBLO – As states and local communities across the country have been hit by the pandemic, there is another crisis many are trying to fight opioid addiction.
In the Bessemer district of Pueblo, the SoCo Harm Reduction Association opens its doors every Saturday to people who need help through a needle exchange program.
The organization says by offering a place where dirty needles can be swapped for clean ones, it reduces the chance of infectious diseases and can lead people to seek treatment options.
“I have a lot of people who say, ‘Oh, you only allow people,’ said KJ Bergfalk, senior peer support specialist.” Our only goal is to reduce the harm to the community and the people. “
Bergfalk spends roughly every other weekend helping people check-in, swapping syringes, getting Narcan for free, or even testing for fentanyl. As someone who has overcome an alcohol addiction, she says empathy is an integral part of helping those who need it.
“We offer the level of comfort of ‘Oh, you were where I was,” said Bergfalk.
The Soco Harm Reduction Association started in 2017 with Judy Solano and the retired emergency doctor Dr. Mike Nerenberg, who co-founded the organization.
“People view the treatment as an event,” said Nerenberg.
The aim of the organization is to help people safely. Nerenberg says he saw people come week after week and eventually ask about treatment options. In some cases, people attribute saving their lives to the organization.
Nerenberg admits that this is a long process and that offering needle swaps is not the overall solution. “It’s not the end, it’s the beginning, it’s the first step.”
The pandemic has increased the challenges within reach to reach those in need. During the pandemic, the Soco Harm Reduction Association reduced working hours and closed during the week.
“The inability to [have] Talking to people was a definite limitation, “said Nerenberg. Overdoses have increased over the past year. Nerenberg
Colorado is expected to receive millions of dollars to be distributed as a settlement by pharmaceutical companies to communities across the state. Nerenberg hopes money will be used to help groups reaching out to communities hard hit by the opioid epidemic.