People living with addiction face new challenges with COVID-19 quarantines

Posted at 10:44 PM, Mar 26, 2020

Editor’s note: With our coronavirus coverage, our goal is not to alarm you but to equip you with the information you need. We will try to keep things in context and focus on helping you make decisions. See a list of resources and frequently asked questions here.

CINCINNATI -- Social distancing may help prevent the spread of COVID-19, but those methods are taking their toll on people battling addiction. A number of treatment centers, including Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health Services, haven't closed their doors completely, but they've had to change how they provide care.

“Now more than ever, I worry about them getting stressed out and not calling and reaching out," said Chris Miles, peer recovery coach at Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health Services. "I worry about their safety.”

Changes in care can cause anxiety and stress, which can be a trigger for some addicts.

“When we ask people to stay at home, that is a dangerous and potentially very risky situation for them,” said Alicia Fine, vice president of employment and recovery at Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health Services.

Addiction recovery is already an uphill battle, but without group therapy sessions or meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, there's a greater risk of relapse.

“When you’re here 3 times a week, 3 hours each day, when you go down to individual sessions through telehealth -- when we take that away, that group dynamic, that support, that’s been significant and really hard for our clients,” Fine said.

To fill that void, Fine says, her team is conducting more one-on-one sessions over the phone or via video chat.

“We are proactively reaching out to every single client that’s open to our services," Fine said. "Our counselors are pursuing people.”

Peer recovery coach Chris Miles has been sober for almost 4 years -- she said her phone has been ringing around the clock.

“I get calls from clients at 11 at night asking, where can I find a meeting," Miles said. "The anxiety is very real. It's real for all of us in recovery.”

Miles said that within the last couple of days, more virtual AA and Narcotics Anonymous meetings are taking place on video chat platforms like Zoom. But for recovering addicts who don’t have a phone or computer, there are some solutions in the works

“Those are some barriers that we’re still trying to break down," Fine said. "We’re giving thought to, maybe we need to give people disposable phones to make sure we can reach them during this time period.”

The Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health Services are keeping their doors open to anyone looking to begin treatment.

“We have had to make adjustments to the way we’re doing things right now," Miles said. "But we are not going anywhere, we’re still going to be here.”

If you or someone you know needs treatment, call the Center for Addiction Treatment at 513-381-6672.

Here are more virtual services for people in recovery:

Numbers you can call for support:

  • Greater Cincinnati Area Hope Line: 513-820-2947
  • Northern Kentucky Hope Line: 859-429-1783
  • Indiana Addiction Hotline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)