It’s a tremendously difficult time for everyone in the world right now, and for people in the United States in particular. Coronavirus and COVID-19 have only existed for a few months, but in that time, and at the time of this writing, fifteen million people have been infected worldwide and nearly 700,000 have died. In the United States alone, over 4 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 and almost 150,000 have lost their lives to this terrible virus.
In addition to the sick and dying, world and national economies have suffered tremendously. Because of stay-at-home orders and safety concerns and the resulting reduction in business, many businesses have had to shut down temporarily or even close their doors once and for all forever. There are few industries that have not felt some sort of pressure from this unexpected and ongoing situation. Worst of all, no one knows when it will end, and although there are potential solutions on the horizon, it could be a very long time before life as we once knew it gets back to what we think of as normal.
One industry of many that are struggling right now is addiction recovery service providers. Prior to this pandemic, addiction recovery providers were already battling an epidemic of their own. In 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services declared the United States’ problem with opioid addiction, overdoses, and deaths a public health emergency. At that time, this government entity announced a five-point strategy to fight this problem and to help reduce the access to, use of, and addiction to prescription opioids, an effort which would hopefully reduce the use of illicit opiates in our country as well.
Although the recognition of this problem was an excellent first step, and some ground has been made in this fight, there is still much to do when it comes to defeating the opioid epidemic. Today, still, over one hundred people die from opioid overdoses in our country every day, and many more suffer from the ongoing pain of addiction.
People who work in the addiction recovery services field are on the front lines every day working to help people break free from their addictions so they can go on to live long, happy, healthy lives. Unfortunately, many of the facilities that provide these services experience many obstacles to providing their services even during the best of times. During the time of COVID-19, many are strained even further.
Read on to learn more about the unique and immense challenges that are currently being faced by the individuals and institutions that provide services in this real.
Inability to Provide Services in the Usual Manner
One of the biggest problems this industry is facing is their inability to provide their services in the same ways that they always have. Addiction recovery support is most effective in a face-to-face manner, but limits on capacity in both inpatient and outpatient facilities during the pandemic makes it difficult to reach all the people in need. Many facilities have changed their approach and have begun offering more online services, but they also realize the value of in-person support is high and all would like to get back to more direct delivery of services as soon as possible.
Furthermore, even when in-person services can be provided, there are health concerns for both the clients and the staff. In one recovery center in Detroit, three staff members out of thirty-five died from COVID so far. This has put much emotional strain on the staff as well.
Fear, although understandable, has put a great deal of strain on recovery centers when it comes to doing what they have always done, and it doesn’t appear that things are going to get any easier any time soon.
Although admission numbers for some addiction recovery centers may seem low at present, people who work in this field know that a storm is brewing. The pandemic is certainly causing a rise in opioid overdoses and in drug and alcohol abuse in general. This is a stressful time and many people are lonely and depressed; this naturally results in an increase in substance abuse as a way to cope. Soon, many people will need to turn to addiction recovery centers for help; many wonder if there will be enough staff, space, and services to respond to the increased demand.
Increased Costs Due to COVID-19
One aspect of COVID-19 with which many businesses are struggling is the increased cost of personal protective equipment for staff and the public and of cleaning and disinfecting of spaces. No one predicted this pandemic when budgets were approved in 2020, and many businesses of all kinds find that they are scrambling to find the money to pay for the important equipment and supplies needed to keep people safe.
This is a big problem in the addiction recovery services industry. Often, facilities are working with a very limited budget already, and the cost of these items will likely mean some people who need help may have to be turned away.
As mentioned above, there are always people who can benefit from addiction recovery services and it’s likely that even more people than usual will need them as this pandemic progresses. However, some people who would have sought treatment may be staying away right now because of fear of contracting the virus. In inpatient rehabilitation facilities, people generally live in somewhat close quarters and have face-to-face contact with many others throughout their stay. It’s likely that some people may be avoiding these facilities during this time, which is not only not healthy for them, but which also results in lost revenue for the facilities themselves.
Furthermore, some facilities raise money for their organizations through social enterprise in their communities. One example, The Comfort Cafe in San Antonio, Texas, helps to fund Serenity Star, a non-profit that helps people break free of their addictions. Unfortunately, the cafe has been unable to operate in its normal manner and, as a result, funding is down for the facilities it aids.
Impending Budget Cuts
And, on top of all of the above, there yet another thing that threatens addiction recovery centers’ ability to provide their services. Most addiction recovery organizations receive at least some government funding; some receive more than others. However, due to the immense financial strain that COVID-19 has put on states, many are considering massive budget cuts to addiction recovery services to make up for money spent elsewhere.
In Oregon, the proposed budget cut to this industry is 17%. In New York, counties’ addiction treatment funds will be cut by 31% in the next fiscal quarter. Other states will likely follow suit. These budget cuts will be devastating for these programs, and undoubtedly for the people they exist to serve.
An Uphill Battle
Any of these factors would be challenging on their own. However, when they are all combined, it seems clear that this industry will have a difficult time moving forward in the way it was prior to this pandemic. This is a terrible and even tragic thing because many more lives will be lost to addiction as a result. This is a field that needs all the resources it can get to fight this very important battle, and it’s already quite concerning that they will not be able to be as effective as they should be able to be, and that they will be hindered in completing their important work that absolutely needs to be done.
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