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For Many Drug Addicts, No Photo ID Means No Treatment

Photo by Jan Sochor/Latincontent/Getty Images

Drug addicts all across the United States are being turned away from rehabilitation centers specializing in this disease of plague-like proportions simply because they do not have a photo ID.

A recent tale from the Associated Press shows the homeless community, which is arguably the most downtrodden sector of the American junkie culture, does not have a fighting chance at finding any semblance of sober living because their “off the grid and penniless” lifestyle has made it next to impossible to maintain the possession of proper legal identification.

The story, which focuses on a homeless man by the name of Steven Kemp, who is addicted to heroin and has been slumming it on the streets of Philadelphia for the past year, reveals yet another problem the nation is up against in the so-called fight to save the lives of those lost to the grips of drug addiction.

During his latest rock bottom, which for many addicts like Kemp comes more times than just the singular event often discussed in the halls of some 12-step programs, he recently stumbled into a local rehab center, only to find out that he could not be admitted for treatment because he did not possess a legal photo ID.

The blow was discouraging, to say the least.

“If somebody goes in and says ‘I need help,’ they should get it,” Kemp told the AP. “I understand people have to get paid, but you’re supposed to be a health professional, you took an oath.”

It is not uncommon for a person forced to live on the streets to lose the kind of important documentation, like a social security card, driver’s license or birth certificate, that is typically requested during the admission process. At bare minimum, most medical facilities require a person to show a valid photo ID to acknowledge that they are, in fact, a part of the larger system that defines a person’s right to the pursuit of happiness by the papers they hold from federal and state governments.

For many of those addicts without evidence of their legal standing, they are forced back into the streets to continue doing the one thing that does not require a photo ID in order to participate—illegal drugs. From that point, addicts like Kemp are left with no other real option but to continue to rot their veins on the sidelines of civil society until they die.

“It’s Russian roulette every time you inject. We let them die from a treatable disease because they don’t have an ID,” said Dr. Corey Waller, chairman of the legislative advocacy committee of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, during an interview with the AP.

Although in some states, medical facilities will accept people without a photo ID past the intake process and try to sort the paperwork at a later time, others make it mandatory for facilities that dispense medications to see “acceptable admissions documents” before taking the next step.

It has been suggested for years that these types of restrictions should be lifted in order to better facilitate those in need of immediate treatment, but the risk of legal repercussions has prevented these changes from gaining much traction.

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