Joe Martinez is a Health Educator with Tri-County Health Department's Aurora Syringe Access Services. There, he provides health services and education to some of the most vulnerable citizens of Arapahoe, Adams, and Douglas counties. His passion for serving marginalized people was borne of intimate personal experience with the opioid crisis. Growing up in Southwest Adams County, Joe saw the devastating effects of substance misuse, homelessness and economic deprivation in his community. After losing a younger brother to overdose and winning his own challenge with substance use disorder, he made overdose prevention and recovery support his personal and professional mission. Serving as a Peer Support Specialist with Young People in Recovery, Joe facilitated life skills curricula with young people in the criminal justice system. As YPR's Denver chapter lead, he organized weekly recovery support meetings as well as quarterly pro-social outings and advocacy events. This included Narcan Bonanza in which people shared their experiences with loss to overdose, community leaders advocated for access to the life-saving overdose reversal medication Naloxone and the chapter distributed dozens of Naloxone kits after training members of the public on its safe administration. In his current role, Joe uses the Harm Reduction model to compassionately and earnestly engage with people experiencing homelessness, providing them with the education and supplies needed to mitigate the harms associated with risky behaviors. His work also includes educating policymakers and advocating for the importance of Harm Reduction in addressing the opioid crisis in our communities. He shares his own experience with health care providers and community leaders to put a human face on the epidemic and inspire hope among those seeking recovery. This work has spurred great growth and provided Joe with many opportunities to develop professionally in his field but the most important and rewarding aspect of his professional life will always be in treating program participants with dignity and empathy.
Health Educator, Tri-County Health Department