Public health programs are working to address drugs at the border — a wall won’t help

Photo thanks to The Week Magazine

Photo thanks to The Week Magazine


In the center of the muddy courtyard beyond the plywood gate is a rusted-out car that three kids have turned into their playground. Outside, their mother and father meet with a pair of outreach workers. The man is an active heroin user; the woman hasn’t used drugs for several years. The workers ask them questions: Have the police been bothering you? Have you had this wound on your foot checked out? The group exchange jokes and words of encouragement, like friends helping each other out.

Before they leave, the outreach workers offer advice on how to stay safe while injecting drugs, then offer the man kits containing sterile needles, syringes, alcohol swabs and condoms. They also give him a few vials of naloxone, a medicine that can reverse fatal opioid overdose. Then, after saying their goodbyes, they return to the streets of Ciudad Juárez.

I witnessed versions of this scene play out over and over earlier this month while accompanying outreach workers from the organizationPrograma Compañeros.They were visiting with people who inject drugs — mostly men between 30 and 50 years old, many of whom were tenuously housed in makeshift shacks. Continue reading