Cruz, House Human Services Committee discuss Puerto Rican Air Bridge

PHILADELPHIA, April 12 – State Rep. Angel Cruz, D-Phila., hosted a House Human Services Committee hearing at Philadelphia City Hall to examine the pipeline that sends Puerto Rican drug addicts to Philadelphia -- known as Air Bridge -- and the effectiveness of the treatment users receive in recovery homes.

“The Air Bridge is a money-making problem, and the people coming from Puerto Rico are the victims,” Cruz said. “Their families pay money for them to come to Philadelphia to get treatment, but when they arrive, options for treatment don’t exist. Instead, they’re prisoners of unregulated recovery homes that collect money, food stamps and other government assistance as payment for their stay.”

Cruz, who represents the 180th Legislative District which also houses “the tracks” – a Conrail train trench -- where users live and seek drugs, is planning to introduce legislation intended to curb the exploitation of addicts, establishing standards that recovery homes would need to comply with in order to get state or federal money.

Puerto Rican Sen. Carmelo Rios described the drug crisis in the island and attributed its inability to take appropriate actions to the insufficiency of funds due to Congressional budget cuts under the Affordable Care Act. The island’s Senate adopted a bipartisan effort to contribute with Pennsylvania’s lawmakers and develop a solution for both.

Testifiers included Jose Benitez, executive director of Prevention Point, and four former addicts who have lived in recovery homes.