Like most addiction treatment facilities, the early days during COVID-19 were frantic here at Maryland Addiction Recovery Center. Fear and the unknown were real, information from the CDC and state and local health departments was frantic and ever-changing, and there was a great sense of discomfort and from staff, patients, families of patients, and even those calling in seeking help for their addiction.

 

As an organization, we took the necessary steps to get out in front of the pandemic. While we watched in horror the numbers grow throughout Eastern and Mid-Atlantic cities, we reached out to other trusted partner treatment organizations, taking advice, offering advice, and working together to implement policies and procedures that would keep the overall patient populations and staffs healthy and safe at all organizations. We followed and abiding by all CDC and health department recommended guidelines, aligning with those guidelines as they seemed to change by the day. We acquired the necessary PPE equipment. We mandated masks and social distancing measures, created necessary COVID-19 screening tools, and created contingency plans just in case we faced an outbreak. We worked to partner with a laboratory that could offer quick turnaround times on COVID-19 testing with accurate results if it was ever necessary.

 

We immediately moved all intensive outpatient (IOP) programs to a virtual telehealth platform, sent home all staff that we’re able to work virtually from home, and created a bubble for our extended care patients so that they risked minimum exposure. This consisted of cutting off social outings and meetings within the local recovery community, stopping all family passes and anyone bringing in outside meetings, creating a quarantine protocol if anyone came down with symptoms, and creating partnerships with local grocery stores to deliver groceries and other necessary items and an internal system within the patient community so that their needs could be met.

 

Fortunately, during this time we haven’t had an outbreak of COVID-19 and the protocols we implemented are still being used, while easing up on certain restrictions that are either no longer necessary or that carry minimum risk, so as not to inhibit the quality of necessary treatment services. We are grateful for the input and help for colleagues and partner addiction treatment organizations during this time, as well as for the positive outcomes these protocols have fostered.

 

However, while for a time we saw dwindling numbers and positive movement throughout the country related to COVID-19, as winter approaches and medical and scientific experts expect the numbers to rise again, we are watching more hotspots crop up in different areas of the country. As the weather turns cold and flu season approaches, we are bracing for what many expect to be a difficult season ahead.

 

Therefore, we are hoping to make three distinct points. The first is that we promise that our health and safety protocols related to COVID-19 will continue. It is our utmost priority to ensure the health and safety of our staff and our patients. Therefore, as we have done since the beginning, we will continue to monitor and follow all health and safety guidelines from the CDC and our local health department. We will continue the protocols that have in place and prepare accordingly should a second wave hit us in the coming weeks and months. The benefits we now have of experience will serve us well. Both ongoing policies and procedures, as well as forward-thinking contingency plans, are already in place.

 

The second point is to emphasize the terrible impact that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has had on the population related to addiction and mental health issues. The numbers of overdoses and overdose deaths are rising, more people are suffering from mental health issues like anxiety and depression, and thoughts of suicide are more prevalent.  The social distancing and isolation are taking their toll on us all. However, we want to be clear that if someone is suffering, now is the time to seek help. When COVID-19 first hit, many people were calling in need of treatment services, but for good reason were putting off seeking help because of the fear they had of COVID-19. People were scared to enter a treatment facility, just as everyone was worried about going anywhere. However, we want to assure you that addiction treatment centers and rehab facilities are safe, and here at Maryland Addiction Recovery Center we are making sure to continue to put the health and safety of patients and staff first. The pandemic is causing people to have major issues with drugs and alcohol, and the coronavirus pandemic should not be the reason to not seek help. If you need help, please call, and make the decision to save and change your life for the better. Sobriety and recovery are better ways of facing COVID-19 than in active addiction. That is a promise.

 

The third and final point is simply a call to everyone. A plea to please take this pandemic seriously. There is a lot of misinformation out there and many people are making decisions based on what seems to be political leanings, regardless of which political party you may follow. What needs to be recognized is that this pandemic is real, people are getting sick, and many are dying. The decisions each of us make about our own health and safety protocols impact everyone else around us. Please take all the necessary precautions. As a society, we are learning how to better treat this virus and hopefully, a vaccine will be available soon, but until that time, please keep yourself and your loved ones safe, which in turn, will help keep everyone safe.

 

If you or someone you know needs help for addiction or co-occurring disorder issues, please give us a call. Maryland Addiction Recovery Center offers the most comprehensive dual diagnosis addiction treatment in the Mid-Atlantic area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or your loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (410) 773-0500 or email our team at info@marylandaddictionrecovery.com. For more information on all of our drug addiction, alcohol addiction and co-occurring disorder services and recovery resources, please visit our web site at www.marylandaddictionrecovery.com.

Zach Snitzer is the Corporate Director of Marketing at Maryland Addiction Recovery Center and is responsible for the business development, marketing, branding, public relations and social media strategies of the organization.