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New HASA Policy Snubs People With Substance Abuse Issues

By Kenyon Farrow

December 6, 2011

Protesting the Bloomberg administration's harmful policies on World AIDS Day 2011. Photo: Julie Turkewitz.

Protesting the Bloomberg administration's harmful policies on World AIDS Day 2011. Photo: Julie Turkewitz.

Anyone knows that it's counterproductive to refuse to house people who are poor, living with HIV and have substance abuse problems, right?

Anyone, that is, besides Human Resources Administration Commissioner Robert Doar.

Doar recently announced in The Huffington Post that NYC's HIV/AIDS Services Administration is planning to screen clients for substance abuse issues. According the article, "HASA clients who choose to not participate in substance abuse treatment based on an assessment's recommendation are faced with a choice: they will be offered a supportive housing placement, or they could lose the ability to receive above-enhanced rental assistance or be denied their request for rent arrears payments."

Stable housing is an essential part of HIV care and treatment access, and research shows that to be true whether or not someone is using drugs. Doar's policy may put many in danger of being back on the streets, in ill health, and less likely to get treatment.

"It's like penalizing people for being sick, whether with HIV or an addiction," says Harold Johnson, case management technician with Housing Works. "We need more supportive services and housing put in place for clients regardless of their addiction. Otherwise you're just adding insult to injury."




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