Liberation Programs, a leading behavioral health organization specializing in substance use treatment in Fairfield County, is adapting to the Coronavirus Pandemic to continue its life saving programs at a time when they are needed more than ever. Liberation’s Outpatient Programs in Bridgeport and Stamford are still accepting walk in admissions for mental health, Methadone, extended release naltrexone, and Buprenorphine as approved by the CT Department of Mental Health Services (DMHAS) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Telehealth counseling services are being used in addition to enhanced protections for in person medicating. Inpatient programs are continuing undisrupted with enhanced social distancing measures in place. We have also partnered with a Federally Qualified Health Center to provide telehealth primary care medical services to Recoverees to ensure their safety while allowing for continued medical care. Additionally, Liberation’s Mobile Wellness Van is in Washington Park in Bridgeport from 10am – 2pm on Wednesdays providing Buprenorphine, harm reduction syringe exchange and overdose kits.

In the month of March, Liberation Programs saw an increase in outpatient admissions with one location having an 18% increase in new admissions. As the Coronavirus Pandemic continues, and in its aftermath, Liberation expects to see an increase in admissions and need for their services. The anxiety, fear, stress and sense of loss due to Coronavirus is a recipe for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which has a high comorbidity with Substance Use Disorders. Stress and trauma are strong risk factors for addiction as well as relapse, treatment failure and a lack of willingness to quit. while dealing with trauma can lead to relapse and lack of willingness to quit. Loss of a consistent routine and the unprecedented increase in unemployment are both indicators of a dramatic increase in drug use. Last month, the “Disaster Distress Hotline” at SAMHSA saw an 891% increase in calls over March of 2019 and a 338% increase in calls compared to the month before.

A vital part of Substance Use Treatment is social support which can be difficult with necessary social distancing protocols. It is essential to rely on technology wherever possible to deal with trauma and anxiety while connecting with others. This is also true for first responders, medical staff and frontline workers who are at risk of developing PTSD from this pandemic. Isolation and social distancing can lead to feelings of loneliness and lack of emotional connections which can lead to increased use and self-medication with drugs and alcohol.

After the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, substance use increased in Manhattan by 27% and remained high even when reports of depression and PTSD had declined. After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, there was a 35% increase in hospitalizations for Substance Use Disorder in Louisiana. Both traumatic events had largely regional effects while the Coronavirus Pandemic has national and global ramifications.

Individuals with Substance Use Disorders are not only at risk of having lasting mental health effects due to the Coronavirus, many are more susceptible to complications from contracting Coronavirus. Individuals with Opioid Use Disorder, methamphetamine use and those who smoke or vape are especially at risk of complications. The timing of the Coronavirus Pandemic is especially unfortunate as we are currently experiencing a national and local Opioid Epidemic. It is critical that Substance Use Treatment is available to curb preventable hospitalizations that will pull resources from Coronavirus frontlines. There are also many instances where change in routine and more time spent at home can lead to finding a sense of purpose and desire to seek treatment.

There are many resources available from Liberation Programs as well as SAMHSA and CT DMHAS for those struggling with stressors related to the Coronavirus Pandemic as well as those living with Substance Use Disorders. Liberation Programs remains open to serve the community in lower Fairfield County during this pandemic and after. To get more information, please visit www.liberationprograms.org, call 855.LIB.PROG (855.542.7764) or email info@liberationprograms.org.