San Francisco Takes Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder to the Streets

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San Francisco’s street medicine team brings doctors and other health professionals directly to people living on the streets to hear their stories and earn their trust. They provide as many services as the person will accept, from housing and food to medication and medical treatment, including addiction treatment. Photo: iStock

Chris Ruffino, 55, spent 27 years cycling in and out of jail and suffering from an untreated opioid use disorder.  After a peer counselor from a street medicine program in San Francisco told him about treatment options, Ruffino headed to a clinic and met Barry Zevin, medical director of Street Medicine and Shelter Health. Zevin, sensing Ruffino’s anxiety, spoke with him outside, in the pouring rain, and started him on a course of Buprenorphine.

“I was ready, I had wanted to quit, and methadone didn’t work for me, but having the doctor literally meet me where I was made all the difference in my getting treatment,” said Ruffino, a father of “three great kids” who is off opioids and now works as a drug counselor.

San Francisco’s street medicine team brings doctors and other health professionals directly to people living on the streets to hear their stories and earn their trust. They provide as many services as the person will accept, from housing and food to medication and medical treatment, including addiction treatment.