Where to Go for Health Care
Methadone programs, outpatient programs or other clinics may have health care services available. Places where you already get good services may know or be able to help you find good doctors. It may be easier to talk about drug use in places where you already get services. But there are many other options to consider.
General Health Care Clinics/Community Health Centers
Health care centers are good for routine care, and more serious things when emergency care isn’t required. You may be able to see the same doctor for each visit and you can often take care of many different medical needs in one location. Staff will get to know you and you may not need to give a detailed medical history each time. Some clinics will have a sliding scale for payment and/or take Medicaid. Community health centers must treat you even if you don’t have insurance. If you have internet access, find a health center near you at this link: http://findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov. In NYC you can also call 311.
Hospital Emergency Rooms (ERs)
It is best to use the ER only in an emergency. If you’re having an emergency, ERs MUST treat people even if they can’t pay. ERs are not designed for routine care—they are meant to take care of the most serious and urgent health care needs. Even though ERs may seem like an easy place to get general health care, community health centers will probably be able to help you more than the ER. There can be very long waits because doctors need to be able to take care of the most serious emergencies first. ER staff are often very busy. This may affect how they talk to you and the amount of time you spend with the doctor. If you don’t have a primary care doctor or can’t go to a health center, the public hospital ER may be able to help you get rid of lice, scabies or other related pests.
Syringe Service Programs (SSPs)
Syringe service programs (SSPs) are places where you can get sterile syringes and other safer injection equipment. You can also dispose of your used syringes. SSPs work with people who use drugs all the time. It is their job to be non-judgmental and to know about drug-related health issues. Some SSPs will have social workers, case managers or counselors that can help you to find services, make appointments, apply for Medicaid and other benefits, and even keep copies of important records. Some may even offer health care.
STI clinics are places where you can be tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV. Some STI clinics also provide hepatitis C (HCV) testing. Some clinics are free. At others you may have to pay a sliding scale for STI testing and treatment.
Mental Health Clinics
Mental health clinics have therapists, social workers, counselors, and psychiatrists to offer special help with mental health. It is important to find someone you trust when you talk about your feelings and emotions. If you don’t feel comfortable with someone, it is OK to ask to talk to someone else.
Immunization clinics offer important vaccines for things like hepatitis A, hepatitis B, tetanus and the flu.
Infectious Disease Clinics (ID Clinics)
ID clinics offer special care for things like HIV/AIDS, HCV, STIs, and Tuberculosis.
Good dental care is important to your health. Community health centers and some hospitals may have dental clinics or schools where low cost or free dental care is available. Find a dentist who will help you understand different treatment options. For example, what are the benefits of getting a tooth pulled—or—what are the benefits of having a root canal instead? Talk to your dentist about how much your treatment will cost and different payment options.