COVID Is a Call for Change: AODA and Mental Health providers must take action to adapt with COVID-19 Restrictions
It’s a scary time to be in recovery. With COVID-19 cases on the rise, so are the numbers of relapses, fentanyl usages, and opioid overdoses, and substance-related deaths. Many outpatient providers and 12-step meetings have closed their doors, transitioning services to telehealth platforms. The path to recovery is often a difficult one in the best of circumstances. With these losses in resources and support services, the path has become that much harder – and we are losing people along the way. “Like most of us, people in recovery weren’t given the opportunity to prepare or plan for this pandemic,” said Shawn Skogen, counselor at 5 Door Recovery, “But people in recovery have had their resources ripped away from them, and the consequences are harsher.”
“Social distancing is the opposite of what we teach in early recovery,” said Mary Curtin, counselor at 5 Door Recovery. Connection is key, but what that looks like can be flexible. “We want clients to learn to be adaptive in their recovery – to think outside the box. Change is inevitable, and we want them to be prepared for when life happens – even a pandemic.” There are many ways to be creative in connection during COVID-19: developing a sober phone tree, attending 12-step meetings via Zoom, or having masked and socially distanced meetings in local parks. Ensuring that folks in recovery maintain contact with their providers is also essential. Appointment reminders and outreach efforts on behalf of providers are more important than ever to ensure that clients remain connected to needed services – connected to their recovery.
“We hope that this is a wake-up call for policy-makers and providers,” said Skogen. There is a significant need for resources in general: from increased access to Narcan, to outreach from outpatient providers, to improved awareness about mental health and addiction, to funding and access to safe, supportive housing. “As we teach clients to make changes and become more adaptive as they start their recovery journey, this is perhaps a sign to us as a society that we must also change how we provide resources and services. This is not a time for us to slack off – this is a time for us to step up and help those most in need.”