Substance abuse follows closely in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, making addiction treatment centers more important—even as their work is made more difficult.
Substance misuse residential treatment is difficult work—and the virus in 2020 made this work dramatically more difficult, from food shortages to increased overdoses.
Twenty-one years ago, I founded Isaiah House, one of Kentucky’s largest nonprofit substance misuse treatment programs. It began in my basement and today we have over 300 clients in some form of residential treatment and another 100 or so outpatient clients. Knowing firsthand the havoc wrought by addiction, I started Isaiah House to save lives, restore families, and improve communities.
We strive to provide the best possible care for those we serve by providing consistent, excellent levels of care regardless of ability to pay. Of course, the pandemic affected our work.
We offer free on-site college that provides up to twelve credits for those enrolled in our long-term programs, and we have free on-site welding classes for those enrolled in our mid-term programs. All of our clients who have completed at least a hundred days in our programs are guaranteed full-time employment opportunities through social enterprises or collaborations with local factories and employers. This is key to the recovery process and for positioning clients for long-term success once they leave our program.
Our eleven-person admissions team works twenty-four hours a day: there can be no delay when someone is ready for help. Another 270 employees manage everything else from cooking 600 hot meals every day to maintaining a clean and functional space. We even provide transportation for all of our clients who need to commute to employment while completing a residential stay with us.
Managing this on a day-to-day basis is, at best, a task for the hopelessly insane.
DISRUPTED BY THE VIRUS
And then March of 2020 stuck. What could have been described as “organized chaos” became a complete, unapologetic nightmare.
In one day, all of our clients with full-time employment lost their jobs. This was a blow to their recovery, and it meant the loss of $10,000 per week in revenue to our transitional homes. More than this, it created a need for significantly more staffing, as these transitional clients became, essentially, residential clients.
Fortunately, our staff were deemed essential, but that didn’t come without another new challenge: equipping multiple locations, including transitional living homes, with telehealth capabilities in over thirty-five locations across a nine-county area. And so began the process of hiring additional I.T. professionals to travel to all locations and equip them, as well as additional therapists, nurses, and paraprofessionals to handle the overload.
Eventually, we were forced to spread our meals and medications to over twelve times daily in order to maintain social distancing. This was no easy operational feat. Needless to say, we had to cancel home visits and on-site visits for our clients, which resulted in situational depression among a population already suffering from several other problems.
Combine all of this with an inevitable sense of uncertainty and you have a recipe for disaster: isolation, fear, joblessness, and loss of purpose created an environment that was almost worse than the pandemic itself.
Our next task was to keep all 300 clients safe and fed while the shelves at stores were depleted due to mass hysteria. Prices on what could be found had doubled. We need 50-100 pounds of protein every day to feed those in our care, and we had to begin rationing food. But our team banded together, contacted different suppliers all over the nation and pulled it off. We kept everyone fed and safe, despite the ever-increasing trials.
A TROUBLED POPULATION
We treat roughly 2800 clients yearly, and so we were not without loss in 2020. One of our clients, who had transitioned to his own home, committed suicide. We saw overdose rates and deaths skyrocket. We lost ten clients over this time, as clients either walked away from the program because they could not see family or worried about their family at home. Unfortunately, they often left our care only to overdose weeks or months later.
There is nothing darker in our world today than addiction. Addiction breeds almost every social malaise in the world today. Divorce, abuse, single-parent families, jail, prison, adoption, hunger, and a host of other social issues are massively impacted, if not caused, by addiction.
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, we will see increases in addiction as we are already seeing increases in overdoses—and this will do untold damage to families and communities across the country. Residential addiction treatment centers now more than ever need your help, as they will play an increasingly important role in the post-pandemic recovery. These nonprofits make such a difference in our communities, keeping people from dying, restoring children to parents and parents to children, saving marriages, and producing grateful men and women on the other end of the recovery from addiction.
From stressed budgets to increased staffing needs and increased demand, addiction recovery centers are stretched to their limits after 2020, and this need will only increase—which means that their value to communities will only increase as the virus recedes in the coming months.