The COVID-19 pandemic created barriers to recovery for victims of the opioid epidemic

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Posted at 5:52 PM, Feb 23, 2021

In 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic claimed lives, underneath it all continued an epidemic that plagued the region and claimed lives long before the coronavirus came to the United States: opioid addiction.

Ohio saw its highest opioid death rate in 10 years last year after the pandemic left unprecedented numbers of people unemployed, depressed and with nowhere to go amid an economic shutdown.

Because of this, many beds in shelters and recovery centers have remained full, limiting the access to help and sobriety that many need.

A local group, New Foundations Recovery Housing, is working to step in to fill their beds with those turned away elsewhere.

"This was the first place I called that said, 'yeah, we have beds open,'" said Sarah Taylor, a program participant who is 8 months and 14 days clean on Tuesday.

Because of the pandemic, she struggled to find a place to stay where she could focus on her sobriety after she finished a mandatory six-month drug treatment program.

"A lot of the different sober livings or even the drop-in centers, or different homeless shelters were not even accepting people," she said.

Mikella Chrisman, executive director of New Foundations, believes the pandemic and even some of the government's relief efforts could be partially to blame for the state's recent rise in opioid deaths.

"It provided them with the opportunity to have money again in their pocket and it just burnt a hole through it," she said.

She's hoping to get the word out about New Foundations, so people in treatment know there are options and that open beds in recovery housing could help many of those trying to take the next step.

"Recovery housing is the bridge from active use to active recovery," said Chrisman. "Without that middle piece, it is extremely difficult to go through all this treatment and get these great tools and not be able to put them into effect."

Without a place to stay, people like Taylor have to try to live a sober life on their own.

"The fear of relapsing, I had been clean for so long that being on the streets and relapsing, it meant death for me," said Taylor.

Amy Parker, the organization's community outreach manager, understands that fear all too well herself: she's nearly nine years clean herself, and she's hoping others out there will see the options New Foundations has to offer.

"I've been there, I understand," said Parker. "I have been on the streets and in treatment centers. I've been in recovery housing and I get it."

To keep their residents safe, New Foundations have also opened several apartments for residents to quarantine in if they come into contact with the COVID-19 virus.