Give people a place to use drugs safely

03.04.20

Op-ed excerpt by President and CEO Kevin Lindamood

If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past 35 years, it’s that housing is health care. But until our nation reinvests in affordable housing, the daily realities of homelessness remain devastating to health.

People without homes are far likelier than their housed counterparts to die prematurely. Their deaths result from increased exposure to violence and the elements along with a variety of health conditions, including addiction. The opioid epidemic is all too real for many people served by Health Care for the Homeless.

This year, Maryland has an opportunity to save lives by adopting a proven strategy to reduce overdose deaths and promote access to treatment: overdose prevention sites. Bills proposed in the Maryland General Assembly (H.B. 464/S.B. 990) would establish these indoor spaces where people could use their own drugs while finding immediate access to life-saving interventions, medical and mental health treatment, emotional support and non-judgmental therapeutic relationships.

One of our patients, Mark, was admitted to a Health Care for the Homeless recuperative care program with multiple abscesses on both arms — limbs so swollen they resembled tree trunks. Over decades, he had tried both inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation to stop using heroin and had been brought back on countless occasions from the brink of death. By the time one of our nurses met him, Mark was in his fifties, newly diagnosed with HIV, completely hopeless and full of regret. Fearful of being judged for his addiction, he told the nurse he wished there was a place he could have gone to use safely until he felt ready to stop...


Read Kevin Lindamood's full op-ed on the Baltimore Sun here

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