Drug Addiction News

Drug remedy teams utilizing tech to adapt, assist at time isolation tradition presents threat for these they serve – TribDem.com

Isolation can be dangerous for someone who tries to stay sober, said Justyn Patton.

Patton, a Somerset resident and Navy veteran, lived for more than 15 years with addiction.

Now he works as a certified recovery specialist who cares for others who are trying to stay sober, and often reminds people in recovery that the message "You are not alone" is true – because it is a world of There are people who understand the fight.

But the surge in social distance associated with COVID-19 has repeatedly freed addicts from these important connections.

"One of my biggest buzzwords for people trying to stay on the right track is that there are 23.5 million people in recovery in the United States – get out there and meet some of them them, ”said Patton. "It's important to be out there and talk to people. But with (the coronavirus) you can't really do that right now."

The Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Program and its network of treatment and support providers say they recognize this problem, which is why they are working around the pandemic – often through technology – to ensure that doors and opportunities remain open for every phase of need.

Whether inpatient treatment for people, who are willing to defeat addiction, outpatient care, or support groups for those who are trying to stay away from drugs or alcohol, program providers are adapting to the COVID-19 outbreak to ensure that programs are still available, said Jennifer Smith , Secretary of the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs.

"Ready" to adapt

For the past 27 months, faith, family, and a fixed schedule of community meetings have helped Timothy B. to rebuild his life in northern Somerset County.

After Staying After more than 25 years as a slave to drug addiction, he said he had managed to turn the page of this chapter of his life by opening himself up to others. After spending some time in treatment, he continues to meet with a group of former drug users in recovery – first names only – to discuss progress, pressure, and issues – the kind of pitfalls that could have possibly brought him back to drug abuse . A. ten years ago.

"After digging deeper for years, I finally put the shovel down," he said. "And when I found a 12-step scholarship, they helped me fill this hole."

In the past few weeks, 41-year-old Timothy had to turn to a computer monitor to continue working in the Group to make settings.

Scholarships across the country – such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous – have been adjusted by moving their intimate meetings from community centers and church basements to webcams and video conferencing to stay together.

"What I see around me right now is a resilient community that is ready to adapt," said Timothy. "With the spread of the corona virus, I realize that I can stay home to help someone else."

Telemedicine Options

Throughout Pennsylvania, the state Drug and alcohol programs have worked with inpatient and outpatient treatment providers to ensure that those who still use or are at risk of drugs or alcohol have access to help, Smith said.

She said the state had received a federal government waiving individual support, including addiction and psychosocial counseling, through web-based "telemedicine" services that people could access at home.

"People are still a phone call away," said Sarah Deist, communications director for UPMC and its Twin Lakes Center treatment facility.

The technology enables people who need it to communicate using bidirectional audio and video, much like FaceTime or Skype does.

"There is (vendor) additional flexibility … while they and advisors stay healthy," said Smith.

Someone Will Answer

Given the “stay at home” guidelines and, for some, panic related to the coronavirus, Smith said her department had one Calls expected to rise this month.

But that didn't happen in many parts of Pennsylvania, including Cambria County.

The Cambria County drug and alcohol program runs year round and connects residents who are trying to get rid of addiction with the help they need.

Fred Oliveros, director of the Cambria County Drug and Alcohol Program, said his office's call volume declined in March – 34 calls compared to 46 and 47 in the same month in 2018 and 2019.

Oliveros said he was not sure why this was happening.

But he and Smith agreed that coronavirus concerns could cause some people to struggle with drugs or alcohol to hesitate to report.

Oliveros & # 39; Answer: Pick up the handset.

"Even now" is the right time to get help, he said. “Our providers are still accepting people for treatment. We are still able to transport people to facilities. “

Smith noted that drug and alcohol officials and treatment centers have put in place procedures to protect employees and visitors from coronavirus risk – and to expose each other

" We're still here , ready and able to provide the resources you need, "she said.

"Take away" at home

The state also received federal approval to allow state-recognized providers of opioid treatments to prescribe take-away medication worth up to 28 days to qualified patients in their opioid treatment programs.

So far, according to Pam Gehlmann, regional director of Alliance's seven locations in western Pennsylvania, state-recognized centers of excellence, such as Alliance Medical Service's Richland location, have been able to prescribe medication to a customer for 14 days.

Alliance serves nearly 750 people through its methadone and suboxone programs, and usually brings a lot of patients to their doors every morning, afternoon, and evening, she said.

The adaptations – and the ability to provide advice remotely – have allowed Alliance to reduce the risk of virus exposure.

“But you can't increase the take-away doses for everyone. Every person is different. There will always be people who have to come every day or every other day, ”she said, noting that trust and positive profits will build over time.

And since the corona virus causes additional stress, "we don't". I don't want to put anyone in a situation where they may be triggered, ”said Gehlmann.

Leigh, an Alliance patient who turned to methadone seven years ago, said she started talking to the family months ago about the impending COVID. 19 risk.

“Even with snowstorms, I'm always worried about what-if. I have to plan everything, ”said Leigh, who now lives in Blair County.

Leigh agreed to speak to The Tribune-Democrat on condition of anonymity, fearing that the methadone stigma might unravel public gains. She is an active member of her community.

Regarding the coronavirus, Alliance has been described as "a step ahead" in recent months by introducing social distancing and disinfection practices early on, and then adapting to the path. She also ascribed to the program that it had helped her develop the coping skills required to deal with the "stressful" situation.

"The most important thing right now is to protect everyone," she said.

Treatment adjustments

Officials at the UPMC Twin Lakes Center in Somerset and the Peniel Residential Treatment Center in Johnstown said the coronavirus – and the ever-changing recommendations such as spread can be prevented – they would have continued to adjust.

But both serve patients.

In Twin Lakes, inpatient group therapy has been suspended for the past two weeks while the center's administrators are looking for alternative solutions. However, according to Deist, the individual counseling continued via telemedicine.

Aside from social distancing and monitoring for coronavirus symptoms, the routines for residents have not changed significantly. On average, they spend 18 days in treatment.

"One of the biggest things we do is to limit the number of people who come to the center," said Deist, noting that outpatient services can be performed online.

The center did not fire any staff, she said. UPMC has agreed to continue paying all of its employees' normal "current" wages until May 9, even if some employees are assigned to other jobs during the pandemic.

The Way Ahead

Public Relations Director, Durean Coleman, said Peniel had tried to focus on getting his customer class to 2020 with as few interruptions as possible serve.

"Your top priority," he said.

As a nonprofit that is supported by private and foundation donations, officials at the faith-based treatment center are also aware that the severe economic downturn that the coronavirus has brought across the country can be devastating, said Coleman.

"We have seen reports that funding (for donations) to nonprofits can decrease by up to 30%," said Coleman, noting that people at home often "tighten their belts in difficult times." .

Penial has been in operation since the early 1980s – and has been in the Johnstown area for 30 years. Coleman said the nonprofit was grateful that some of the program's most loyal supporters took action as the economic impact of the shutdown became known.

"We had business people and family members of people. Those who went through our program help us weather the storm," he said.

Some donated paper products. Others sent checks, he said.

As the presence of pandemics has shifted from days to months, this support is vital, Coleman said.

"Without them, we would be faced with really difficult decisions right now," he said. "It is important that we ensure that people do not forget us in times like these."

Smith said there was no evidence that state-approved treatment providers were in danger of being closed.

But financial difficulties are likely to increase if the pandemic continues, she said.

"Whether it is labor shortages, overtime costs … just healthy and willing people to work," she said. "I think we have to deal with that in the near future."

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