This article was originally published here
Harm Reduct J. 2021 Dec 6;18(1):125. doi: 10.1186/s12954-021-00574-5.
BACKGROUND: Harm reduction programs often lack community-based support and can be controversial, despite data demonstrating effectiveness. This article describes one small Alaskan community’s development of a harm reduction managed alcohol program (MAP) in the context of a city-run quarantine site for individuals experiencing homelessness. The MAP was developed to support quarantining by COVID-19-exposed or COVID-positive individuals who also experienced chronic homelessness, a severe alcohol use disorder, and heightened health risks related to potentially unsupported alcohol withdrawal.
METHOD: Five interviews with key informants involved in planning or implementation of the MAP were conducted using rapid qualitative analysis and narrative analysis techniques.
OUTCOME: This study documents the planning and implementation of an innovative application of a managed alcohol harm reduction intervention in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this instance, a MAP was used specifically to limit hospital admissions for alcohol withdrawal during a surge of cases in the community, as well as to mitigate spread of the virus. Key informants report no residents enrolled in the MAP program as a part of quarantine required hospitalization for withdrawal or for COVID symptoms, and no shelter resident left the quarantine site while still contagious with COVID-19. Additionally, the level of community support for the program was much higher than originally expected by organizers.
CONCLUSIONS: This program highlighted an example of how a community recognized the complexity and potential risk to individuals experiencing structural vulnerability related to homelessness and a severe AUD, and the community at large, and was able to create an alternative path to minimize those risks using a harm reduction strategy.