By Steven Adamo
Providing many numerous services to East Los Angeles, Bienestar is a social service organization that offers treatment, support and education on a wide-variety of health-related issues.
Services include testings and screenings, one-on-one case management and treatment for mental health and substance abuse.
In an effort to lessen the numbers of opioid-related deaths, Bienestar also offers courses on and helps distribute NARCAN— an FDA-approved nasal spray used to treat an emergency opioid overdose. “The opioid epidemic is continuing to ramp up,” said Brendan O’Connel, director of Programs and Services for Bienestar. “It could save lives.”
A 2016 study from the University of Kansas and Soongsil University in South Korea found that only half of Black and Latino/a community members with mental illnesses or substance abuse disorders received treatment for either one. The study also said that the number is even lower for people receiving treatment for both.
People with both mental illness and substance abuse disorders experience more adverse outcomes, “including more frequent relapse and hospitalization, premature death, higher rate of infectious diseases, unemployment, homelessness, and incarcerations,” the study said.
Through federal and local grants, Bienestar is able to offer these services to all people in the community for free. “A lot of the services that we provide are subsidized by the federal and local government, or the agency themselves. That’s for anybody in the community and there’s no charge attached to that,” O’Connel said.
Though Bienestar has a syringe exchange program, they are not currently a safe-injection site like the one proposed in San Francisco earlier this year. “San Francisco had approved a place and they were going to launch, but governor Brown stopped them. So we’re waiting to see how that plays out.” The Trump administration has also said that they will block San Francisco’s attempts to open a safe-injection site.
Bienestar also provides confidential testing for HIV, Hepatitis C and STIs as well as offer the anti-HIV medication PREP, or Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. “It’s kind of like the birth control pill for HIV,” O’Connel said. “If you’re HIV negative, it’s a pill you take every day and you won’t contract HIV. It’s proven to be 100% effective.”
Support groups at the East LA location range from a parent support group for families with LGBTQ members (in English and Spanish), HIV positive men, open rehab programs and general wellness groups. Support groups for transgender women are also available at most Bienestar locations.
Depending on eligibility requirements, the East Los Angeles location also has a food bank offering assistance on a monthly basis for those who are eligible. Those who do not meet the requirements can receive a one-time food package and help with connecting to other food banks.
The East Los Angeles location is one of seven locations in LA county, including South Los Angeles, El Monte, Hollywood, Pomona, Panorama City and Long Beach. For more information about Bienestar and their services, www.bienestar.org or call (866) 590-6411. The East Los Angeles location is 5326 East Beverly Blvd.