Current Work and COVID-19
Currently, Mahan is working more peripherally with HRI as he is striving to finish his medical degree. Due to COVID-19, HRI adjusted to provide masks and find new ways to meet people, whether through a virtual setting or not. As many of us have seen and experienced, the pandemic exacerbated social problems due to the consistent isolation and distancing that was needed to mitigate the pandemic. However, this did not help against the opioid epidemic, where overdoses significantly increased. It was difficult for low-income households to survive the pandemic, so the difficulty for homeless individuals, who were also struggling with opioid use disorder (OUD) was unimaginable.
Mahan believes that one of the biggest barriers OUD patients face is the criminalization of drugs, as it makes it difficult for patients to visit clinics and seek the help that they need. This makes it particularly challenging for patients to seek clean syringes in order to avoid cross-infection. Part of this problem stems from the stigma that exists in society, which is unavoidable and needs to be consistently challenged. According to Mahan, this requires uniting allies that are willing to advocate for patients on larger platforms, and move towards equitable policies for these vulnerable populations.
Mahan wanted to give a special thank you to everyone who has helped HRI become what it is today. In the future, Mahan hopes to have the skillset to be able to meet people and patients where they are at, whether in the hospital or in the streets, and be able to help them receive the care they deserve. Overall, Mahan has shown that he is ready to be a frontline advocate for patients in need of social and health equity, which tie together to become their reality. Since this is the reality for patients, this is what Mahan believes medicine should look to solve.
Opioid Hero of the Month: July 2021
Introduction and Motivations
Our next Opioid Hero of the Month is Mahan Naeim! Mahan is currently a 3rd year medical student who helped establish the Orange County Harm Reduction Institute in 2019 under the American Addiction Institute of Mind and Medicine (AAIMM). The Harm Reduction Institute (HRI) is a physician-led harm reduction program that works to prevent the spread of infectious disease and overdose deaths. Their work includes providing fentanyl strips, MAT referrals, naloxone distribution, overdose education, safe sex items, and syringe services.
During his undergraduate experience, Mahan was always someone who wanted to be on the frontlines of harm reduction. He was and still is a huge advocate for social justice and social equity, ultimately finding his passion for medicine through volunteering with the county’s prior needle exchange program. Through this program, he observed first-hand the help that was needed and the large impact he could have on the community, just from 2 hours of volunteering over the weekend. He saw the patients neglected and sought to make a change. He soon realized this was the kind of medicine he wanted to work in, with minimal barriers and a large community impact. After the organization that Mahan worked with was forced to close, he collaborated with other advocates of harm reduction to find ways to provide safe syringes for these patients in Orange County. After 2 years of perseverance Mahan helped found the Harm Reduction Institute in Orange County.
Is there an Opioid Epidemic Hero in your community in Orange County? If so, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org! We would love to include them in our series.