In response to opioid overdoses in Boston, Dr. Jessie Gaeta devised a safe space for rehabilitation called SPOT. She is the Chief Medical Officer of the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program or BHCHP. SPOT (Supportive Place for Observation and Treatment) was made with the goal of preventing fatal overdoses in mind.
Dr. Gaeta talks about how a safe place was missing from BHCHP facilities. She explains how SPOT provides a haven for over-sedated individuals to recuperate, who are mainly poor or homeless. Once they join the program, “they aren’t alone, they aren’t in public, and they aren’t on a street corner with no medical response nearby,” says Dr. Gaeta.
She explains how SPOT maintains anonymity while staying accessible for intoxicated individuals. She says the program is currently located in a street level room, right on the inside of BHCHP’s front door in the lobby. “It’s a quiet spot, tucked away, where people can just walk in. They don’t even have to give us their name,” says Dr. Gaeta. She notes how this decreases barriers and gives the program some street credibility, encouraging others to come in without the fear of being judged.
SPOT allows individuals to come in and “sleep off” their high or overdose, sometimes resulting in a comatose state. Dr. Gaeta explains how substances are layered with heroin, creating complicated delayed overdoses. SPOT puts a non-invasive finger monitor on guests to monitor their vitals. “It takes a lot of the guesswork out. You know when someone’s safe and you can let them sleep. You know when someone’s not safe and you need to intervene,” says Dr. Gaeta. “We monitor oxygen levels, blood pressure and pulse.”
Dr. Gaeta notes the coziness of the room. “We can only fit 10 people at a time,” says Dr. Gaeta. “We use recliner chairs…We’ve tried to make a place that people want to come to rather than fearful of coming to.” She notes people are more willing to share in this space and how this sharing fosters further treatment. “It’s an environment conducive to helping individuals access treatment gradually…We’ve got to keep people alive.”