Battling Substance Abuse: Recovery and COVID-19

Coronavirus Outbreak

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WBOY) – Since the pandemic, the state has seen an increase in overdoses and deaths due to overdose but has also seen more people in recovery.

“If you look in the early few months of COVID being a thing—so, March, April—you really saw a lot of shift,” explained West Virginia Sober Living Executive Director Jon Dower. “Individuals that were in sustain recovery—they weren’t able to go to 12 steps rejoin groups or celebrate recovery, refuge recovery, whatever their self-help group was—you started to see individuals that would normally be really successful, socially isolate.”

Dower said he thinks the tipping point was the “maladapted” distribution of unemployment and stimulus checks to people who don’t have a great track record of being responsible with money. Despite the increase in overdose, recovery services are also seeing an increase in demand, which leads to a few complications.

“Not all providers through this pandemic were delivering the same types of services they were delivering beforehand,” Dower described. For example, outpatient services traditionally happened in in-person group settings became zoom meetings.

“It also stopped that social support network. It’s having friends and individuals that encourage foster and grow your development,” said Dower. “Individuals have this idea of a recovery capital that these resources that help them be prosperous in their recovery process. Well, an important piece of that Is social capital. It’s having friends and individuals that encourage foster and grow your development. As a person in recovery but also support you during those rough times.”

Recovery services are also bringing new initiatives to the table. Dower explained how they had received funding through the Bureau of Behavioral Health.

“The idea of this grant is to go out and reach those people that are underserved or un-identified,” said Dower. “May have substance use and/or comorbidities and help refer them into a treatment process.”

Even with the complications, Dower said that recovery is still happening every day.

“One silver lining that’s come out the pandemic is that you’re seeing an increased access to treatment both from a behavioral setting and even a primary health setting over a virtual platform,” explained Dower.

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