It all began in March, COVID19’s first case in the USA creating a rollercoaster of emotions such as anxiety, fear, stress and uncertainty! Isolation was encouraged.

At a steady and rapid pace, the Coronavirus pandemic forced us into our homes to “Shelter in Place” while we were encouraged to do our part to “Flatten the Curve”. Cities and states started to shut down as cases increased hourly and daily. Closings took on a life of their own; schools, churches, restaurants, malls, and theatres all closed. However, liquor stores were considered essential and remained opened along with grocery stores. Alcohol sales in stores and online increased at an alarming rate. Uber Eats and Uber Drinks thrived! What happened to those already struggling with substance use disorders?

With a universal time out, ensuing State orders and CDC guidelines were followed; how would those experiencing anxiety, depressions and isolation and already on the cusp for potential alcohol/substance abuse fare? Did parents relax rules at home for alcohol use among teens in order to appease and bond with their child(ren) and/or over compensate for their uncertainty as to what to do? With the first summer in history where sports and other activities were not available, how were young people able to exert energy? While sheltering-in-place and seeing family members differently than they ever had, how does one cope? How does a parent, who feels unprepared to read to their child(ren), cook meals, provide homework help, and experience food insecurities cope with their day-to-day stress? How does an individual whose only escape from an abusive partner was to work outside the home now survive? What does one reach for to deal with life on its new terms; is it alcohol? Legal, accessible and stigma free alcohol potentially start to look good to those looking for relief, even better to those who relied on it already and the best of all to those who could not cope with the responsibilities of their life during the pandemic. Did they resort to drinking, increase alcohol intake or excessive drinking?

There was no longer any place to hide, no place to run to, no dropping kids at day-care, school, work, extra-curricular activities, baptism, birthdays, catechism, bar mitzvah; it all happened under one roof, at home. The positive aspect of COVID19 created room for bonding, worship, laughter, game night, meals, academic, games and family story time. The decision for the school year’s end was distant learning. Pre COVID19 we navigated through life moving quickly from one task to the next and seldom saw one another for long periods because school, work, worship and extra-curricular activities were all outside of the home, oftentimes with people other than the nuclear family. The New Norm continues!

Waiting to exhale!

The August/September back-to-school plan for our precious young people had us hold our breath. Of course, young people deserve socialization, kinship, friendship, and the school experience – they also deserve protection and safety. How does the young person view the back-to-school decision and what does the parent/caregiver believe about their decision to send or not to send their child(ren) to school? Does that decision determine a “Good Parent” or “Bad Parent”? Hybrid/Virtual/Home Schooling, what is it to be? For the child(ren) headed to school, is it a bus or car ride or a walk? When students see their friends, how do they greet one another? Are they properly wearing their mask; fully covering their nose and mouth? How do parents focus in work or at home with the anxiety of if their child(ren) is safe? COVID19 (The Pandemic) has shifted our focus…..we question are we doing all we can, is there anything else we can do? While we consistently experience stress, anxiety and uncertainty, what is our retreat? Is alcohol a companion; is it one glass of wine, one cocktail or a few? Has a drink become what we reach for to calm our worry? Let us take a minute to exhale and assess how we made it through the past six (6) months, what was the “it factor” that offered a sense of sanity, what became your vice? How do you make it through safely day-by-day? Let us continue to do the best we can daily and be kind to one another by offering support and Love.

“Don’t wait for the storm to pass, learn to dance in the rain” (author unknown)

By: Maggie Young, Chief Recovery Officer

Watch Liberation’s Chief Recovery Officer, Maggie Young, speak to the Connecticut Women’s Consortium on her journey through trauma and recovery.

Liberation Programs, Inc Announces Appointment of New Board Chair and Directors

(Norwalk, CT) – Liberation Programs, Inc (LPI) announced the start of its new Fiscal Year on July 1, 2020 with the appointment of a new Chair of the Board of Directors, two new Board Members.

Joining the Board are Debra Hertz, Maria B. Hancock, and Kirk S. Santos. Hertz will be reprising her former role as Board Chair for a one-year term. These appointments bring the total number of Board members to 14.

“We are excited to welcome Debra back to our Board in this leadership capacity and to have Maria and Kirk join this group. Their combined experiences and connections will be instrumental for an important year ahead as we continue adapting to the Coronavirus Pandemic, advocating for social justice, and celebrating our 50th Anniversary in 2021 all while providing unparalleled service for those who need us”, said President and CEO, John Hamilton. “We are all grateful to our departing Board Chair, Wayne Cafran, for his years of service as well as Roberta Cohen, Mort Lowenthal and Patricia Muldowney who served on our Board for over a decade collectively”.

Debra Hertz is returning to Chair the LPI Board having departed the Board in 2015. Hertz is a management consultant and founder of The Strategy Group, LLC with over 25 years advising nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. She holds a PhD. and Master of Social Work from Fordham University where she also teaches leadership courses in the Graduate School of Social Service. A Darien resident, Hertz is on the Board of Directors of Achievement First – Bridgeport.

 

Maria B. Hancock, Rye, NY, is an international executive and entrepreneur with extensive experience in investing and mentoring start-ups and advising on climate risk. Hancock has a PhD. in Theoretical Nuclear Physics from Johann Wolfgang Goethe Universität which she utilizes in product innovation, operational leadership, and risk assessment.

 

 

Kirk S. Santos, Mount Kisco, NY, is Chief Learning Officer at Pitney Bowes in Stamford. Previously, Santos held various positions at many Fortune 500 companies including PepsiCo, IBM, and Caesars Entertainment. Santos has extensive experience in Human Resource Strategy including retention, compensation, diversity, talent management, and succession planning. He holds a Master Strategic Management/Human Resources from Long Island University and is a member of the National Society of Hispanic MBAs, Society of Human Resource Management and Sigma Beta Delta.

 

The current Board of Directors for Liberation Programs:

Debra Hertz, Chair

John Bassler, Vice-Chair

Dennis Monson, Treasurer

Laura Beck, Secretary

Dr. Frank Appah, Jr

Steve Fogarty

Maria Hancock

Allison Milne

David M. Morosan

Kwame Moses

Sallyan Pelletier

Kirk Santos

Cynthia Shaw

Brigitte Van Den Houte

Dear Friends,

At Liberation Programs, we stand against racism, social injustice, and police brutality. In recent days we have watched in horror as George Floyd was murdered by a police officer. Racial tensions and violence against Black individuals have once again shaken our society. We stand with you in your grief, anger, and sadness at the inequality and violence that have taken place far too often for Black Americans. We understand that there is now more stress, anxiety, and fear during a time when we were already experiencing heightened emotions and trauma.

We believe that hope is the cornerstone of all human healing; one cannot instill both hope and fear. We stand for hope. The work we do depends on our ability to earn trust which cannot take root without respect. We disavow acts that create humiliation. We condemn racism and we are committed to being change agents by listening, learning, sharing, and supporting you during these difficult times.

We know the criminal justice system is flawed and we are committed to its reform through diversion and deflection. Recovery, prevention, and intervention are possible for all. Our doors are open to all who need our services and we promise to treat everyone respectfully.

As an agency, we are committed to systemic change and will continue developing a workforce and Board of Directors who reflect those we serve. We stand in solidarity with the Black community and remain committed to change for an equitable society.

Blacks Lives Matter; you matter to me.

 

Yours,

 

 

John Hamilton

President & CEO

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.