Reducing Harm for People Using Drugs & Alcohol During the COVID-19 Pandemic
A Guide for Alternative Care Sites
Resource Topic: Emerging Issues, Special and Vulnerable Populations, Clinical Issues, Social Determinants of Health (SDOH)
Resource Subtopic: Behavioral Health, COVID-19, Substance Use Disorders, Health Equity, Population Health.
Keywords: Infectious Diseases, Opioids, Persons Experiencing Homelessness.
Year Developed: 2020
Resource Type: Publication
Primary Audience: Administrative Staff
Secondary Audience: Board of Directors
C-Suite (CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, COOs, CMOs, etc)
National Health Care for the Homeless Council
(See other resources developed by this organization).
Resource Summary: People experiencing homelessness cannot recover or protect themselves from COVID-19 at home. Therefore, Alternative Care Sites are being developed to accommodate such clients. This issue brief is intended to provide managers of alternative care sites, including health centers, with a framework for serving individuals with SUD in isolation and quarantine, and reducing possible harmful consequences.
Resource Details: Many communities are quickly standing up COVID-19 alternate care sites (ACS), which can accommodate people experiencing homelessness who need a safe place to await test results, receive treatment, and/or be protected from the risk of COVID-19 infection. Because this population has high rates of chronic medical and behavioral health conditions—to include substance use disorders (SUD)—ACS must be prepared to address a full range of health care needs. Addiction doesn’t stop because there’s an infectious disease pandemic, but escalating behaviors can be a challenge for programs to manage. Simply barring people from ACS because they have an SUD is not an effective response during an infectious disease outbreak. If the primary goal is to prevent the spread of COVID-19, ACS should not penalize individuals for using substances and instead, support them using the approaches outlined in this brief.