Massive line seen outside methadone clinic weeks after COVID-19 pandemic reached San Antonio

Officials reviewing how to avoid such crowds in the future

SAN ANTONIO – Days after the KSAT 12 Defenders recorded footage of a massive line of people waiting for methadone treatments, officials from the center that operates the downtown facility said they are working to prevent crowds like that from gathering in the future.

The line, which formed around midday Friday, wrapped around parts of the Roberto L. Jimenez, M.D. Restoration Center in the 600 block of N. Frio Street.

People gather outside the Roberto L. Jimenez, M.D. Restoration Center on Friday. (KSAT)

The large gathering came five full weeks after city officials announced the first case of COVID-19 in San Antonio, a figure that swelled to over 1,000 this past weekend.

At least 39 people in Bexar County have died from the virus so far.

The city’s Novel Coronavirus website, which provides data updated daily, indicates that at least 75 percent of cases here are from close contact between people or community transmission.

Methadone, which is used to treat opioid use disorder, should be taken on a regular, consistent basis.

This has posed a challenge for opioid treatment clinics during the COVID-19 pandemic, since many patients are required to show up daily.

A spokeswoman for the Center for Health Care Services, which operates the restoration center, provided the following statement:

“We have requested and received relief from HHSC (Texas Health and Human Services Commission) to accommodate take-home medication doses for eligible clients. On Friday, April 17th, clients who are eligible for 6-day, 13-day, and 27-day take home medication supply came to our clinic, and that was in addition to our daily clients. We had our counselors and Bexar County Deputy Officers monitoring the lines the entire day in order to maintain social distancing, and we are reviewing how to avoid such crowds going forward. As a reminder, CHCS is the largest licensed clinic in the state of Texas, and previous state requirements mandated consumers to “show up” daily. While this past practice worked for consumers, obviously we are trying to meet the needs of our community and our consumers during the COVID outbreak while working to maintain their dignity and meet their treatment needs.”

Bexar County residents remain under a Stay Home, Work Safe order that requires people to stay home unless taking part in exempted activities like essential business, medical treatment and getting food. If people are taking part in an exempted activity, then they must remain at least six feet apart, the order states.

Despite COVID-19 pandemic, long lines continue outside downtown opioid treatment clinic

Footage captured by the Defenders Friday showed that the six-foot requirement was repeatedly being violated.

Officials have previously said that at least 3,500 people in San Antonio are treated with methadone each day.

More than 20,000 people should be seeking methadone treatments daily in San Antonio but currently are not, officials have said.

About the Authors

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

Joshua Saunders is an Emmy-nominated photographer/editor who has worked in the San Antonio market for the past 20 years. Joshua works in the Defenders unit, covering crime and corruption throughout the city.

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