Safeguarding OST and needle exchange services amidst the COVID-19 outbreak
Last week the Scottish Drugs Forum published new guidance aiming to raise awareness of potential problems with substance use service provision during the COVID-19 outbreak, and offering suggestions as to how such challenges might be mitigated.
In a sense, any guidance published at the outset of a novel viral outbreak could be ‘out of date’ as soon as it is released. With the caveat that the situation is likely to change, the featured guidance offers advice on the basis of expert consensus about what could ensure continuity of services for people who use drugs when best practice or ‘service as usual’ might be out of the question. The focus is delivery of supervised opioid substitution therapy and supply of sterile injecting equipment – services which may be disproportionately affected by government calls for citizens to ‘stay at home’ and ‘avoid all non-essential contact’.
The guidance considers the following questions:
- What are the risks of maintaining service as usual versus relaxing rules around dispensing medication and supplying injecting equipment?
- What can pharmacies do in the event of a stock shortage?
- How can we ensure continued supply of medication if patients are quarantined or need to self-isolate?
By Natalie Davies, co-editor of Drug and Alcohol Findings