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Working in Substance Use Disorder Treatment During COVID-19

Working in Substance Use Disorder Treatment During COVID-19

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) warns the current COVID-19 crisis presents special challenges for those with a substance use disorder (SUD). Increased anxiety coupled with social isolation increases risks for relapse. For treatment providers, maintaining both inpatient and outpatient treatment services, as well as support services, is critical for their clients and communities.

Many treatment providers are following ASAM recommendations by implementing a combination of telehealth-based treatment, increased infection control procedures in facilities, and sheltering patients or clients in place during quarantine orders.

What are the Increased Risks of COVID-19 for SUD Treatment Clients?

Certain factors make those with SUD more vulnerable to COVID-19 and can affect treatment options. Risks increase for the following individuals:

  • People with pre-existing conditions like heart, kidney, or liver disease.
  • Individuals who vape or smoke tobacco, marijuana, or crack cocaine or have an opioid use or methamphetamine use disorder. Any of these increases susceptibility to lung and respiratory dysfunction.
  • Those who are stigmatized by overburdened hospitals and clinics.

As a result, treatment providers are considered an “essential service provider” during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic and are expected to continue providing services responsibly and safely.

How SUD Treatment Centers Are Safely Operating During C0VID-19

With proper use of infection control protocols and mitigation strategies, addiction treatment services in both inpatient and outpatient settings can safely continue their vital work during the current public health crisis. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) recommends the following precautions:

  1. Conduct systematic, frequent disinfection of all clinic surfaces and waiting room areas. Treatment providers should utilize CDC disinfection guidelines. Staff should refresh their training on infection control processes, correct hand washing procedures, use of personal protective equipment, and other mitigation strategies. Providers should ensure that both staff and clients have access to hand sanitizer, masks, and gloves. Sick staff members should stay home.
  1. Pre-screen before client arrives at clinic, assessing for symptoms of COVID-19. Reschedule non-urgent appointments. Refer client to a COVID-19 testing service if indicated. Consider telehealth, including virtual appointments, assessments, counseling, and support.
  1. If clients are cleared to come in, ensure social distancing of 6 feet. Giving masks and the appropriate social distancing space can help stop the spread of Covid-19 among asymptomatic individuals.
  1. Temporarily discontinue group sessions and increase individual counseling. Provide clients with virtual recovery resources for online support groups, counseling, stress management, crisis hotline, and other services.

ASAM has posted extensive clinical guidelines on its website, based on federal regulations for residential and outpatient settings. The CDC also has resources for ensuring your clinic is prepared for client visits during COVID-19.

What is Working In Treatment Like During COVID-19?

Turning Point of Tampa continues to provide essential treatment services to the public. Understanding the need for increased universal infection control precautions to protect our clients and staff, we have made several important changes on our campus.

Despite the changes necessary during this pandemic, we continue to remain committed to our clients and the recovery community. We view our work at Turning Point of Tampa not as a job, but as a calling. That is why we will remain here for you throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

We have been offering Licensed Residential Treatment for Addiction, Eating Disorders and Dual Diagnosis in Tampa since 1987. If you need help or know someone who does, please contact our admissions department at 813-882-3003, 800-397-3006 or admissions@tpoftampa.com.

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