Homeless With No ID Barred From Drug Treatment

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As the nation’s heroin and painkiller epidemic rages, small but vulnerable populations of homeless people are sometimes turned away from the already-threadbare system of drug treatment centers because they do not have valid photo identification, the Associated Press reports. Transient lifestyles are not conducive to keeping the identifying documents that may be necessary during the screening processes for drug treatment facilities. To reapply for the documents can sometimes take months, especially if a person doesn’t have a stable address, birth certificate or Social Security card. The consequences can often be deadly or dangerous, experts said.

“It’s Russian roulette every time you inject. We let them die from a treatable disease because they don’t have an ID,” said Dr. Corey Waller of the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Even with political will to combat an opioid epidemic that killed more than 30,000 people in 2015, fewer than one in 10 substance abuse treatment facilities offer certified opioid treatment programs, says the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. People without IDs generally don’t make it past the intake process at medical facilities, so tallies of their refusals are hard to come by, but advocates said it happens at least twice a day in Philadelphia alone. “Every time we delay someone from getting into treatment, it puts them at risk for their life,” said Jose Benitez of the nonprofit Prevention Point Philadelphia.

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