Funder: California Health Care Foundation

Author: Priti Khanal and Rachel Davis, Center for Health Care Strategies

July 2020 | Profile

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Shannon Smith-Bernardin, PhD, RN, CNL, cofounder of the National Sobering Collaborative, was concerned about people with alcohol use disorders experiencing homelessness. They were being placed in isolation or quarantine for their safety. Yet in these settings, they would be at high risk of withdrawal.

To respond to the needs of this population, Smith-Bernardin partnered with California’s Alameda and San Francisco Counties to pilot one of the country’s first managed alcohol programs. Using a harm reduction lens, the pilots provide people experiencing homelessness who are in protective housing under Project Roomkey with a medically supervised supply of alcohol and supportive services. The program is designed to avoid complications related to abrupt alcohol withdrawal while reducing risk of COVID-19 infection. This profile outlines the implementation strategy of the alcohol management program, as well as future considerations for the program.

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Homelessness and COVID-19: Innovation Snapshots

This profile is part of an ongoing series produced by the California Health Care Foundation (CHCF) in collaboration with the Center for Health Care Strategies that highlights the challenges and innovations of addressing the health needs of people experiencing homelessness during COVID-19 and beyond.