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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 Clinicians Enabling Staff Outreach Staff
Secondary Audience: Board of Directors C-Suite (CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, COOs, CMOs, etc) PCAs

Language: English

Developed by: 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.

This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $6,375,000 with 0 percentage financed with non-governmental sources. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS, or the U.S. Government. For more information, please visit HRSA.gov.