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New York City health workers have begun delivering free methadone to opioid addicts amid the coronavirus crisis — sparking outrage from officials who called it “disgusting” and a “recipe for disaster.”
The program was announced Tuesday by the city’s Health Department, which said it began with a “soft launch” last month and was expanding the initiative by lowering the age of eligibility from 65 to 50.
“Methadone is a life-saving medication,” Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot said in a prepared statement.
“New Yorkers who take methadone and get sick from COVID-19 should not have to choose between getting their medication and protecting their health or the health of others.”
Federal regulations previously barred home delivery of methadone, but the COVID-19 pandemic led to an emergency loosening of the rules for addicts who’ve tested positive for the disease, show symptoms or are at high risk if they get infected, the Health Department said.
Teams of two workers each have been specially trained and will be outfitted with masks, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes to safely make about 1,300 curbside deliveries a month to addicts’ homes and taxpayer-funded hotels, the Health Department said.
Participants will receive at least seven days’ worth of methadone, an oral pain reliever that’s used to prevent withdrawal symptoms in addicts who are enrolled in treatment programs.