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Community members and lawmakers from Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico met in Philadelphia's city hall to find a solution to the "airlift."
Community members and lawmakers from Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico met in Philadelphia's city hall to find a solution to the "airlift."

They seek to curb the "airlift" between Puerto Rico and Philadelphia

Imposing quality standards and control mechanisms to recovery houses were some of the ideas expressed in the meeting between legislators from Pennsylvania,…

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At a public hearing held earlier in the week in the Philadelphia city hall, several local, state and even Puerto Rican lawmakers spoke with the community about how to deal with the problems that have generated for years the sending of drug addicts from Puerto Rico to Philadelphia.

Angel Cruz, a state representative and leader of the Human Services Committee of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, who called the meeting between politicians and community members, said that this problem is a business in which "people make money at the expense of families who pay for their relatives to be taken care of here. "

Cruz said that part of the problem lies in the lack of regulation and monitoring of some houses that are presented as centers for the care of drug addicts without the capacity and certificates needed to ensure a good service.

"Their families pay the money to come for treatment, but when they arrive there are no options for the service, instead they end up being prisoners of unregulated recovery houses that collect money, food stamps and other government aids," the representative said.

Carmelo Rios, a Puerto Rican senator, called for Pennsylvania lawmakers to help push legislation to facilitate the disbursement of funds to promote medical treatment on the island.

Vladimir Rivera, one of the victims of the "airlift", shared his experience. He said he agreed to travel to Philadelphia with the idea of receiving treatment in a center with all the conditions to provide the service. The outcome was that he ended up in two recovery homes where he was poorly treated and didn’t solve his addiction problem. Currently Rivera undergoes treatment in a third center, where he ensures his conditions have improved.

In another sense, Councilwoman María Quiñones-Sanchez, who did not participate in the hearing but did give a strong press release, urged representatives of Puerto Rico not to come and wash their hands in the city. She recalled that the "airlift" is a subject sufficiently registered by the media since 2009 and, moreover, it is hardly a component of a major problem: the addiction crisis that has buried thousands of people in the environs of Gurney Street.

"We need to leave behind the game of who is guilty and who is innocent. We need Conrail to take over his property and clean it. We need Pennsylvania to solve the issue of unlicensed centers. We need more beds and resources to care for patients. We need government officials in Puerto Rico to stop separating families. We need those who have turned a blind eye to this problem stop looking for guilt everywhere because we are all responsible and must do our part to put an end to this drama”, she concluded.

At the close of the public hearing, Representative Cruz shared with the community his plans to present a bill to the House of Representatives aimed at stopping the exploitation of addicts and establishing operating standards for recovery centers or houses.

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