Addiction recovery a delicate balance during coronavirus

Published: Mar. 26, 2020 at 5:58 PM EDT
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While isolation is necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it's the very thing that makes recovering from drug and alcohol addiction so fragile. That's why local rehab facilities are going to extraordinary measures to help patients during this difficult time.

Matt Rizzo, who runs A Renewed Mind recovery center, said the stress of a worldwide pandemic is hard for everyone, and if you add in addiction issues, it can be a lethal mixture.

"The COVID-19 virus is in the front seat with mental health and addiction, so mental health is not taking a back seat to COVID-19. They're all in the front seat fighting over the steering wheel," said Rizzo.

With group recovery meetings going online to avoid group gatherings, organizations like A Renewed Mind are helping clients with that as well, because forced isolation is an enemy to the disease of addiction.

"We know that it's really important for our clients to stay connected with each other, to stay connected with our staff, and those support groups that you mentioned," Rizzo said.

Josh Dressel of Midwest Recovery said their staff has been busy connecting patients to Telehealth tools so they can continue to receive services from housing.

"To be able to sit across the room from somebody, just on a computer screen and get the same amount of clinical things that you need, accessed or medical or just being a support group with a bunch of friends or family people in recovery," Dressel said.

Matt Bell runs Midwest and said just the basic function of keeping clients safe while allowing them to receive support is a lot but necessary.

"We're trying to keep as many non-essential staff at home. Using Telehealth like we're doing right now has been amazing for us," Bell said. "But just going through sanitizing everything with the sanitizer that we can get our hands on, taking temperatures as much as humanly possible, minimizing the amount of groups that are possible. The size of the groups and the amount of individuals who are being transported in the vehicles, just taking every precaution possible."

And Bell said the crisis facing the country right now can be a lesson to those in recovery.

"Fear can be a very healthy thing and survival mechanism because if we plan appropriately and do what we need to do, not just with COVID-19 but in our recovery, we don't have anything to worry about," Bell said. "Because if we continue to do that, one day at a time and practice the principals, we'll be OK."