Reflections on COVID-19's Impact on Harm Reduction and Homelessness Advocacy in Philadelphia


Led by PISC Senior Scholar Shoshana Aronowitz, PhD, and contributed to by Senior Scholars Margaret Lowenstein, MD, MPhil, MSHP, Eugenia Catarina South, MD, MSPH, and Executive Committee member Zachary F. Meisel, MD, MPH, MA, this study aimed to explore how Philadelphia’s harm reduction advocates, community organizers, and substance use disorder (SUD) treatment clinicians have been impacted by COVID-19. Over the course of the pandemic, there have been notable detriments like increased substance use and relapse, as well as policy interventions like eviction moratoriums and the loosening of certain substance use treatment drug policies. The study interviewed 30 eligible participants during July and August 2020, yielding three main themes: 1) COVID-19 issues impacting people who use drugs and people experiencing homelessness are extensions of pre-existing problems, 2) there is currently an opportunity to innovate and improve care for such populations, and 3) the path forward is uncertain.


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