Re “Woman with 2-year-old son in stroller seen in Mass. and Cass neighborhood, officials say” (Metro, Oct. 17): As Boston Medical Center addiction medicine providers, we were dismayed to read this article that shames a family experiencing homelessness.
The woman and her toddler were forcibly displaced after the police ordered her car and belongings towed in the middle of the night. She sought refuge with her child at our hospital, suggesting that she had no safe home to return to. Despite this brutal night, she still attended her methadone clinic appointment in order to receive treatment for opioid use disorder, but she was questioned by the police for seeking treatment.
Homelessness is not a crime. Having opioid use disorder is not a crime. Methadone, a first-line treatment for opioid use disorder, is provided only in opioid treatment programs, and these are often located in areas of concentrated poverty and homelessness. Patients are required to attend daily; missed visits can result in decreased doses, severe illness from withdrawal, and even clinic discharge. Parents may have no other option than to bring their children to clinic. Adhering to her methadone treatment schedule was appropriate and responsible behavior by this mother and represents her commitment to continue with medically indicated, stabilizing treatment. Rather than being derided for this, she should be admired.
We can imagine a system that meets this family’s needs with compassion rather than dispossession and criminalization. Providing emergency shelter, connecting with a social worker to assess basic needs and safety, arranging child care during medical visits — all are interventions known to improve well-being and prioritize family integrity. Instead, this parent now faces a report of neglect or abuse filed with the Department of Children and Families for being homeless and receiving medical treatment. We urge officials and the media to do better for our families in crisis.
Dr. Jordana Laks
Dr. Miriam Komaromy
Dr. Laks is an addiction specialist and Dr. Komaromy is the medical director at the Grayken Center for Addiction at Boston Medical Center.