As the country deals with the coronavirus pandemic there is another deadly disease that threatens to reverse our recovery gains – addiction. For people struggling with addiction, services and treatments available to them have been disrupted by the COVID-19 epidemic. Many community support groups are cancelled, and healthcare providers are diverted to treat COVID-19 patients making it harder for people with substance use disorders to seek help.
With in-person gatherings cancelled, people in recovery are now without a crucial lifeline and the fear is
that social isolation will increase the risk of addiction. At the beginning on the pandemic, alcohol sales increased as anxiety and isolation rose and as more families sheltered in place they realized loved ones needed help for an addiction. Additionally, studies show that as unemployment increases so does death from drugs, alcohol and suicide because of the psychological distress.
Moreover, drug rehabs in Illinois and Indiana have experienced outbreaks of coronavirus or suffered COVID-related financial difficulties that have forced them to close or limit operations. A treatment and sober living facility in Chicago recently had an outbreak of 55 coronavirus cases among clients and staff members. The center was forced to go from double to single occupancy rooms, improve its air filtration system and change the way it serves food. One drug rehab in Indiana which treated as many as 80 men at a time in its free, abstinence-based program is set to close its doors in September. The next closest facility will be in Chicago, more than 30 miles away.
While addiction treatment centers have taken steps to protect their clients, they must avoid some safety strategies like keeping potentially intoxicating hand sanitizer on the premises. Similar to nursing homes, drug rehabs have shared spaces, double occupancy rooms and group therapy which can also make social distancing difficult. And while people struggling with addiction are generally younger, they are just as vulnerable as nursing home residents to suffer from other health conditions like diabetes and heart disease meaning they are at higher risk of succumbing to COVID-19.
Now is the time to reach out to those who are struggling with addiction and provide them with the resources and medications so that they are not alone and forgotten during this dual crisis of coronavirus and addiction.
If you need assistance locating the nearest organization providing Overdose Education and Naloxone Distribution or Medication Assisted Recovery services in your area, contact the Illinois Helpline for Opioids and Other Substances by calling 833-2FINDHELP (234-6343), text "HELP" to 833234 or visit www.helplineil.org.
The Helpline is the only statewide, public resource for finding substance abuse treatment and recovery services in Illinois. They serve people using opioids and other substances, with or without insurance.
More information about overdose prevention and response can be found on the Drug Overdose Prevention Program (DOPP) homepage.
For Medicaid Members: Managed Care Organization (MCOs) Care Coordinators also have special services and programs for members who need extra help managing a health program. If you are a Medicaid Member, please reach out to your Care Coordinator if you have specific questions or needs.