LOUISA, KY — Regular meetings hold recovering addicts accountable and remind them they’re not alone in their laborious daily battle.
The COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying restrictions wiped out those important gatherings, creating a challenge Addiction Recovery Care’s Chief of Staff called “overwhelming” at times.
Louisa-based ARC has 36 centers across 16 counties, the largest of which is River Place in Pike. Matt Brown said, as of Thursday, there has not been a positive case reported in any of those facilities.
Constantly seeking ways to combat potential pandemic-related problems, ARC has relied heavily on technology to conduct meetings and activities.
“(The coronavirus) created a perfect storm for relapse and overdoses,” Brown said. “We’ve seen an increase in that, and we’ve talked to other providers saying the same thing. Stimulus checks have been causing relapses, too.”
Brown said ARC has been “very on purpose about providing virtual opportunities.
“Virtual’s good,” he continued, “but it can’t fully replace in-person connection. We’ve had to double and triple down on the amount of recreational activities inside our facilities.”
The newest virtual offering is an app called ARC Anywhere. According to ARC’s website (arccenters.com), it “offers all aspects of our holistic treatment program straight to your smartphone or computer.” It includes clinical counseling, peer support services, medically assisted treatment, targeted case management, anger management, chaplaincy care and vocational training.
CEO Tim Robinson assembled a client counsel. Every Friday, he orchestrates a Zoom call consisting of two representatives from each ARC house.
Brown said they’ve held leadership team meetings every day since March 11.
“It’s been a challenge for everyone, and there’s been some rough points, but overall it’s made us a better organization,” Brown said. “With Tim’s leadership, we’ve hit it head-on.”
ARC has restricted family visits, but it has increased the allotted time for phone calls and video chats with family.
ARC altered its intake process.
“We used to allow people to come to us for treatment,” Brown said. “Now, we actually pick them up and take them to treatment. Then we check their temperature and all that.”
Brown commended an “amazing workforce,” of which a good chunk is comprised of people in recovery. Two years ago, ARC had 300 employees. Today it has 740.
“They’ve been determined, innovative and courageous,” Brown said.
Brown also pastors The TABLE church in Louisa. Church attendance averaged 150 a weekend before the pandemic. They’re meeting at 33% capacity (based on building code), which equates to 94 people.
When it comes to his church and the treatment centers, Brown said he’s been a broken record regarding the state’s phases of reopening.
“We’ve gotta down down on guidelines as things open up,” he said. “Now is not the time to be sloppy or complacent. We’re trusting our leadership — federal, state and local officials.”
At Pathways, crisis unit director Aaron Ellis said when the COVID-19 guidelines were issued, there was about a two-week scramble in trying to figure out how to deal with it.
“Drug addiction and mental health issues did not go away just because of the COVID,” Ellis said. “As a crisis unit, we had to still keep accepting clients and meet their needs.”
By converting offices into living spaces for inpatient clients — and having counselors and other personnel work from home — Ellis said the 22nd Street facility lost only two of its 16 beds it uses for folks undergoing a 28-day drug treatment program. The idea of that short-term program is to give clients tools and resources to continue in their recovery on an outpatient basis, inside recovery groups such as Alcoholics Anyonomus or to go off to longer three- to nine-month programs.
The long-term programs also had some adjusting to do, according to Ellis.
“A lot of the women’s programs in the area are smaller in size, so the adjustment was rather easy,” he said. “But other programs have up to 100 beds, so it took about a week or two to get that adjusted as well. What they’re doing now is bringing in people in cohorts so they can all quarantine together before being introduced to the general population.”
Two Pathways-affiliated long-term centers in Grayson and Morehead are still accepting clients, Ellis noted.
Over the last month or so, there has been an increase in demand for addiction and mental health services, Ellis said. Restrictions on in-person meetings of AA or Narcotics Anonymous groups has led to the loss of support systems for recovering addicts, Ellis said. The 22nd Street facility had hosted meetings, but those are independently controlled by those fellowships, Ellis said.
“A lot of those chapters have moved to online meetings, and we couldn’t allow large gatherings inside our facility,” he said. “However, if someone is struggling in staying sober, we’re here to help. We can refer them to the resources they need.”
In early June, Pathways will be opening a new short-term care facility in Mount Sterling, Ellis said. Providing 16 beds, Ellis said the facility will help alleviate a backlog of people seeking services in Ashland.
“We will do assessments here in Ashland and get you out there,” he said.
REACH OUT FOR HELP
Addiction Recovery Care: arccenters.com, (606) 244-0345
Pathways Inc.: pathways-ky.org, (606) 324-1141