A collision of drug criminalization, inadequate and discriminatory housing policies, and insufficient mental health and substance use care services has fostered open drug scene encampments in communities around the world. Open drug scene encampments concentrate social, medical, and public health challenges that include HIV transmission and opioid overdose. This month, the Boston Medical Center team talked with Dr. Jessie Gaeta, a national expert who has been a primary care and addiction medicine physician at the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program since 2002. Their conversation touches on some of the factors that contribute to the establishment and growth of encampments; how best to talk and ask about housing status; and helpful and harmful approaches to open drug scene encampments and the people who live there.
“I think we have to be thinking way up stream in terms of the reasons that these spaces form…In the U.S. and Boston, the context for encampments we have to remember and constantly surface, and that is systemic and intertwined issues that are very deep in our society and come back to systemic racism; poverty; the overdose crisis; the failed and racist war on drugs, even drug prohibition as a policy; insufficient mental health and addiction services; and of course unmet housing needs. These are the real, core reasons that we have encampments and open drug scenes." --Dr. Jessie Gaeta
Resource and background material:
- Preferred Terms for Select Population Groups & Communities
- Journal article: Open drug scenes: responses of five European cities
- Journal article: Health risk associated with residential relocation among people who inject drugs in Los Angeles and San Francisco, CA: a cross sectional study
- Journal article: "Pick up anything that moves": a qualitative analysis of a police crackdown against people who use drugs in Tijuana, Mexico
- Journal article: Effect of drug law enforcement on drug market violence: a systematic review