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Addiction treatment center adapts to social distancing amid pandemic

Posted at 2:05 PM, Apr 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-10 14:05:35-04

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – Substance abuse was an epidemic long before the COVID-19 pandemic. During the coronavirus crisis, recovering addicts face challenging circumstances and one addiction center in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, is adapting.

“My name is Stephanie Dye, and I was a nurse until 2016 when I got involved with opioids,” said Stephanie Dye, who is currently recovering for a year at the Mountain Medical Recovery Treatment Center. “I did a detox here, and it was the best I’ve ever done. Here, we actually learn things. We fight every meeting about affirmations, about ourselves, because it’s really hard for most of us to come up with joyful things for feeling good about ourselves. It’s very hard.”

According to Dye, one of the hardest things for anyone recovering is being alone.

“One of the big things that makes us use or continue to use is we isolate,” Dye said. “That’s a big part of the addiction is we isolate ourselves.”

Since the pandemic began, addiction centers have needed to adapt. According to the executive director of the Mountain Medical Road to Recovery, Nancy Beste, it was a challenge with social distancing.

“The crux of this is we thought COVID-19 was going to devastate recovery.” Beste said. “But it’s been a boom because people really used it as a way to refocus.”

According to Beste, since March, during the height of the pandemic, her center has doubled the amount of people in its recovery program.

“We were getting more and more recoveries,” Beste said. “Initially when social distancing started, our providers sat together and all talked and decided we are absolutely essential. We’re here to help people stay in recovery and one of the biggest obstacles for recover is isolation or loneliness. So, we decided to stay available throughout the whole social distancing.”

Group therapy is one of the most important tools recovering addicts can use, according to Beste.

“During our programs, there is therapy three hours, three days a week, which is intensely looking at how to cope without substances and we decided to put that online and reach out to people and help them too, by being involved without having to come to the clinic,” Beste said.

Road to Recovery hosts its patients with virtual meetings every week. Through video conference calls, people like Dye can get the help they need.

“Having these meetings and knowing Nancy is always there for you, I feel that this program is so good for me,” Dye said. “I don’t know where I would be without it. I probably wouldn’t be sitting here.”

According to Beste, in March, the Road to Recovery won a state grant to help the center start its outpatient program. It allows recovering addicts to have direct help online and contact with behavioral health experts.

However, the crisis and the way Beste and the center responded to the hurdles, Beste said this can change the way it helps those in need.

“I think this will really allow people to have access to an online sense of community,” Beste said. “This is going to help us in the future when this social distancing is over because it will allow those who are too far away to attend these meetings actually get the help they need.”

Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering