Being sent from my host site in Florida to help with the opioid crisis in Scott County, Indiana, was a rewarding opportunity and a gratifying end to my PHAP experience. One way Indiana is responding to the opioid crisis—and the subsequent HIV outbreak—is opening syringe access programs to combat the spread of HIV and hepatitis C. Upon my arrival at the Scott County Health Department (SCHD), I was tasked with planning and implementing a door-to-door outreach campaign to increase awareness of the syringe access program in the county.
My most memorable and rewarding experience at SCHD was working with injection drug users. Over the course of a month, I visited nearly every single apartment complex and trailer park in Scott County―hundreds of residences―offering and providing HIV and hepatitis C testing in an effort to engage high-risk and hard-to-reach populations. Many of their homes were dilapidated or falling apart, and several did not have running water or electricity. While it was disheartening to see the rampant poverty, limited understanding of health information, high HIV rates, and lack of accessible and affordable health care, it was very meaningful to be able to provide HIV and hepatitis C tests to previously unreached individuals.
My time in Scott County provided an incredible opportunity to use the skills I gained through PHAP and the knowledge I learned in my MPH classes. Creating a framework and protocol for door-to-door outreach where there was none—and subsequently implementing that outreach project—were truly meaningful experiences. These activities expanded SCHD’s capacity to engage the community, increase awareness of services, and provide those services, ultimately leading to a healthier Scott County.