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Denver clinic offers hope to homeless drug addicts

South Street Health Center is a game changer for patients
Posted at 10:14 PM, Jun 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-27 13:38:21-04

DENVER -- They're huddled in front of our state capitol and camp along our river banks. And their numbers are growing.

The Denver metro area's homeless population doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Some people turn a blind eye. Others may feel desensitized to these Coloradans and the issues they deal with daily. More than half of these people are struggling with drug addictions.

But a home health care service in Denver has come up with a way to help these people get back into society.

"I've been talking opiates since I was about 18," said a woman who asked us to refer to her as Ashley.

The 34-year-old woman told Denver7 she's afraid to get a job because she thinks her drug addiction would hinder her during the application process.

"Ultimately, I'm homeless because I'm a drug addict," she said.

She's hoping the Stout Street Health Center may be the push she needs to get her life back on track.

"I'm hoping to be a better wife and be a better mother," she said. "Just a better person all around and get off the streets, because I don't want this life anymore."

The walk-in clinic is run by the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.

Dr. Rollin Oden with the coalition said the program has expanded recently. In the past month, they've treated 149 patients like Ashley.

"Success is really high," Oden said.

The clinic is prescribing the drug Soboxone — a less intense alternative to Methadone.

"It takes away the cravings and doesn't get you high," he said.

He said in the past few months, the center has added staff and changed policies. He said if an addict shows up one day and doesn't get treatment, he or she may never come back. Because of that, every patient at the Stout Street Health Center is guaranteed to be treated that day.

And the center promises to turn a three-week process into a three-hour treatment program. Especially when the treatment involves medication.

"The urgency for us is, if that person that day wants to try to change their life, we want to be there to support that," Oden said.

Ashley has been on Soboxone for eight months and has been opioid-free ever since.

"It's great," she said. "It really helps with the cravings."

There are roughly 8,000 homeless people in the Denver metro area. Of those, 80% are considered addicts.

The goal of the Stout Street Health Center is to let those people know their doors are always open. And now, boosted by a compassionate helping hand, Ashley said the center has given her something she hasn't felt for years: hope.

"If you're an addict, they're pretty much here to help," she said.