By Blake Spurney
MOUNDRIDGE—COVID-19 has had at least one positive effect for those coping with substance-abuse addiction.
“People have become more isolated, and that’s made them more aware they need help,” said Shelly Parkman, clinical manager of Valley Hope of Moundridge.
Parkman said the residential substance-use disorder clinic had seen an increase in the number of cases. She said some of those seeking treatment had been furloughed. Consequently, they don’t have to take time off from work to get treatment without the fear of losing their jobs. Now they can take the time off without fear of retribution.
“It’s sad if a person wants to get help, they’re afraid they’ll lose their job if they do get help,” she said.
Parkman said it seemed that a lot of those who had been furloughed still had their benefits or a COBRA insurance plan.
Parkman said the pandemic had brought about a demand for Valley Hope’s services and that the clinic has had a steady caseload of 30 to 35 patients since it started. Patients stay anywhere from one week to a month, depending on the drug of choice and the clinical needs of patients.
Parkman said she didn’t necessarily see a common denominator among those seeking help other than an increase in stress levels related to the pandemic. She said a majority of patients was seeking treatment for alcohol addiction. Patients come from all over the state and beyond.
Parkman said people tended not to pick up on whether they had a problem because it is more socially acceptable than other substances. One can drink for years and do a lot of damage before he or she realizes a problem exists.
“It just really takes a toll on the brain,” she said.
Parkman said she’d heard from patients that they were drinking more because they weren’t going to work. Others still going to work increased consumption while dealing with the stress of not knowing from day to day whether the job would still be there.
“We all know liquor store sales have gone skyrocketing high,” she said.
Parkman said most patients drove themselves to Valley Hope, but some are dropped off by family members. Once a patient checks in, he or she is not allowed visitors during the duration of a stay. Any interaction with family is conducted via phone or online. The visitation restrictions related to COVID-19 mean that Valley Hope can no longer conduct its family program.
Employees are also coping with increased stress levels. A new state mandate came down requiring all staff members to wear masks beginning last Friday. Parkman said the extra precautions made the job more stressful.