NIATx Puerto Rico shares innovations at the 2010 SAAS Conference/NIATx Summit

Submitted by: 08/04/2010

The NIATx Puerto Rico participant Corporation SANOS in Caguas learned a surprising lesson in its recorrido (walk-through): lack of a sign identifying the agency was a barrier for new clients. The agency installed a storefront sign (figure 1) in March and experienced a 44 percent increase in walk-in clients. This was a powerful example of how simple, inexpensive changes can have significant impact.

Corporation SANOS and other representatives from the NIATx Puerto Rico project attended the 2010 SAAS Conference/NIATx Summit to share the success stories from the first year of their learning collaborative. (To view the PowerPoint presentations, visit

NIATx coaches Angie Maldonado and Carolyn Castro-Donlan provide technical assistance to the project.

Drs. Angel González and Carmen E. Albizu García lead the NIATx Puerto Rico project and also serve as co-directors for the Alliance to Increase Access to Addiction Treatment in Puerto Rico (Alianza para Reducir la Insuficiencia en el Tratamiento de Adiccion en Puerto Rico).

Drs. González and Albizu García kicked off the Summit NIATx Puerto Rico presentations with an overview of the Alliance. With a mission to increase evidence-based treatment for addiction disorders through a collaborative effort, the Alliance is guided by the belief that addiction is a treatable chronic illness. A specific goal of the Alliance is to provide effective treatment to opiate-addicted individuals in the community, as well as those making the transition from prison to the community.

This cross-sector partnership includes representatives from Puerto Rico government agencies, municipal governments, community organizations, and the University of Puerto Rico. The Alliance is a grantee of the Open Society Institute’s Closing the Addiction Treatment Gap (CATG), a project to remove barriers to addiction treatment in the United States and Puerto Rico.

The Methadone Treatment Center of Caguas (Centro de Tratamiento con Metadona Caguas), a NIATx Puerto Rico participant, gave an overview of its process improvement efforts, which began with a recorrido (walk-through) of all its services and followed with forming a change team.  The change team focused its efforts on improving the Center’s processes for initial drug testing and progress notes, setting 2010 improvement goals for each process.

Milagros del Amor (Love’s Miracles Corporation) offers a variety of free services that include addiction counseling and referrals as well as housing, training, and education. Also a NIATx Puerto Rico participant based in Caguas, Milagros del Amor shared lessons learned from its change project, which focused on the agency’s reception area. The agency’s walk-through uncovered the need for a better way to inform clients of all the services available to them. The team developed a reception manual as well as a way to document participants served daily, using their computer system.

This agency also saw improvements in the admissions process and the number of registered appointments. Feedback from clients as well as change team members has been very positive. The success of the first months of process improvement is generating enthusiasm for more projects related to the agency’s mission to help the homeless in the community improve their quality of life.

The three-year NIATx Puerto Rico project launched in September 2009 and offers many important opportunities to adapt the NIATx model to another language and culture. For more information, visit the NIATx Puerto Rico page at


Figure 1: Corporation SANOS

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