California has a massive homeless problem, from Los Angeles to Silicon Valley. Much of this homelessness comes from the pricing of homes in the area; due to new and ever-expanding wealth, the people whose jobs service the wealthy often can’t find a place to call home themselves. However, many of the people who end up on the streets and in tent cities also grapple with addiction, health, and mental health disorders. San Francisco wants to take this crisis by the horns and meet homeless people in the streets, offering them medically-assisted treatment options and letting them know that they’re not invisible.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Mayor Mark Farrell wants to create a specialized 10-person special medical team that will offer buprenorphine (Suboxone) prescriptions to homeless people in the city, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, a class of drugs which helps to relieve symptoms of opiate withdrawal. Usually, the drug is used as part of a treatment program that includes therapy, 12 step meetings and other forms of recovery programs.
When giving out the drugs to people on the streets, medical teams will offer free prescriptions at needle exchanges, in parks and in other public locations that are considered hot spots for drug use. The program is modeled after a similar initiative that was tested in local tent camps. According to the mayor’s office, of the two hundred people who participated in 2016, nearly 60% are still clean from opioids. This statistic is close to a miracle when compared to
The laws allow doctors to participate more in their patient’s recovery. Doctors who participated in the 2016 program were able to drive their patients to the pharmacy to pick up the pills, and in some cases, were able to dispense the medication on-the-spot, due to the laws regarding buprenorphine. Some doctors recommend long-term use of the drug, which makes it unclear how patients will be able to access it in the future.
Mayor Mark Farrell has pledged $29.1 million towards homeless services this year.