SAN ANTONIO – A long line of people gathered Monday morning outside an opioid treatment clinic on East Quincy Street, and separated themselves to a proper distance away from one another only after a KSAT 12 photographer began gathering footage.
A similar scene of people being right next to each other played out one week ago outside the same clinic, even in the midst of the raging COVID-19 pandemic.
BayMark Health Services, parent company of the MedMark outpatient facility where the long line formed, indicated on its website that it has emergency steps to ensure patient safety during the pandemic, including expanding parameters for take-home medication for some patients.
Put simply: Some patients are allowed to take home more than one day of medication.
A patient on Monday told KSAT 12 that the inside of the facility looked nothing like what was going on outside and was not packed with people.
The approach to treating opioid use disorder faces challenges as people are being instructed to stay away from one another.
“Recovery is not supported by isolation. Recovery is supported by social support,” said Jennifer Sharpe Potter, Ph.D., M.P.H., professor of psychiatry and vice dean for research in the Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio.
Dr. Potter pointed out that methadone, and buprenorphine, the other medicine used to treat opioid use disorder, should be taken on a regular, consistent basis.
Potter said interruptions to this dosing “can introduce the body to withdrawal and individuals will start to feel uncomfortable and that is not consistent with best practice for treatment.”
According to one estimate, there are more than 1,250 opioid treatment centers in the United States, treating more than 350,000 people.
This means, potentially, a clinic could serve thousands of people in a single day.