During these sessions, Mr. Krumroy identified the association of the trauma with lifesaving behaviors, such as alcohol and drug use, that affected so many members, including himself. For him, the trauma that led to his own excessive drinking was the AIDS epidemic when he lived in San Francisco at the height of the crisis. Now he’s fighting to suppress the reverberations that trigger the coronavirus pandemic.
“These Google groups and individual phone calls will be crucial in helping us recognize how potentially traumatic the coronavirus is,” said Krumroy. “We have to tell ourselves that our reactions are normal and understandable and should not be ashamed. And with this mutual support, I hope most of us will be able to resist any urge to re-engage in our behavior. “
But Kristen Marshall, who manages the DOPE project in San Francisco for the National Harm Reduction Coalition, is not as optimistic. To help prevent overdoses, the project is distributing clean syringes, addiction drugs like naloxone and narcan, snacks and bottled water to programs working directly with homeless people. She is seen as an essential worker who does not have to follow state orders to take shelter locally, so she travels around town with other health workers to help homeless people who are suffering dependencies and health crises, ordered to disperse, their property confiscated.
“Closing or limiting programs designed to support them puts them at an even higher risk of overdose and death from overdose,” said Marshall.
She added, “For so many of our people, their contact with our programs is some of their only opportunity for socialization and connection. Workers and their organizations are therefore desperately trying to balance their health and safety while refusing to close the doors of their programs. “
Closure orders across the country strike some in the salvage community ironically. On the Facebook group Harm Reduction Abstinence Moderation Support, which accepts many people who treat substance problems by reducing consumption instead of abstaining, some fear that with the closure of certain liquor stores, they will have to withdraw the cold turkey and delve into tremens delirium – or “DT”, with hallucinations, vomiting, fever and high blood pressure. And then they fear that they will not be admitted to the overcrowded emergency services. Or will be on display at Covid-19 in these waiting rooms.
“Many of our members have dropped off a supply of alcohol so they don’t break down immediately,” said Kenneth Anderson, the group’s founder.