The San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) said it is using private donations to administer medical cannabis and other drugs to help unhoused individuals who have quarantined inside of hotel rooms paid for by the city, KTVU reports.
Health officials say it’s one part of the city’s plan to help the unhoused population stay indoors and in one place during the ongoing shelter-in-place coronavirus response order. The SFDPH confirmed its strategy of providing substances that addicts would otherwise go searching for in a tweet on Wednesday.
These harm reduction based practices, which are not unique to San Francisco, and are not paid for with taxpayer money, help guests successfully complete isolation and quarantine and have significant individual and public health benefits in the COVID-19 pandemic.
— SFDPH (@SF_DPH) May 5, 2020
The department said staff had received several medical cannabis deliveries for patients with prescriptions and that about 10% of the hotel guests had received tobacco products. 11 guests had been given “medically appropriate” amounts of alcohol to stave off withdrawal symptoms, officials said in the report, and methadone was also available from methadone clinics for people with heroin cravings.
“With regard to supporting people who are at risk, or who need to be in quarantine or isolation because they’re COVID positive, our focus needs to be on supporting them. Meeting them where they are so that they can be cared for in the most appropriate way. In the way that’s good for them and for our community.” Dr. Grant Colfax, San Francisco’s Department of Public Health director, via KTVU
The practice has sparked controversy online, with some critics arguing that the city should not be giving away free drugs as it could further fuel addiction problems; others said that the city should not make addiction treatment services voluntary (which they are) for addicts who are being housed in the hotels.
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