The rapid spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. and around the world has sadly forced many businesses, civic organizations, and community providers to shut their doors and cease operating indefinitely. For many of us, life as we know it has hit a “pause” button that we did not know existed. Here at FHE Health, we are keeping our doors open because mental health and substance abuse treatment are an essential medical need that is only growing in scope and urgency the longer the COVID-19 pandemic drags on.
In order to stay open for people in their time of greatest need, we’ve successfully implemented high-level policies and procedures to safeguard the health and safety of our patients and staff during this pandemic. And, we are standing by our commitment to help anyone whose mental health has been affected by the virus. If you or someone you love is suffering from anxiety, depression, or a drug or alcohol relapse—or another Coronavirus stress-induced, mental health issue—rest assured that treatment is available.
Here are some quick answers to questions about mental health and substance abuse treatment during this time:
Q: Are drug rehab centers still open?
A: Many drug rehabs remain open, although be sure to inquire about whether they are prepared for the Coronavirus and how they are protecting their patients and staff. At FHE Health, for example, all prospective patients are screened for COVID-19 prior to being admitted, and all essential staff on our property are routinely evaluated for potential symptoms.
Q: Are mental health providers considered essential?
A: The concept of “mental health parity” means that services for addiction and other mental disorders are just as critical as other medical services and therefore equally deserving of insurance coverage. Like many other essential health providers, then, most mental health providers remain in operation; and, to meet the exponentially growing need in recent weeks, regulations have loosened to enable people to access teletherapy alongside other telehealth services.
Q: How is COVID-19 affecting mental health?
A: The mental health effects of the Coronavirus are already beginning to weigh heavily on Americans, as evidenced by the distress signals: fears of infection, social isolation, depression over job loss, anxieties about finances, chronic and traumatic stress among first responders (in healthcare, law enforcement, etc.), and grief in the wake of losing friends and loved ones to COVID-19. Stay tuned in the coming days for more articles on these topics from our experts.
6 Reasons Mental Health and Addiction Care Are Still Essential
There are in fact very good reasons to seek rehab right now, as these six considerations will reveal. The good news is that nobody in a mental health crisis or at risk of an overdose needs to put off much-needed and potentially life-saving care— not even and especially during a pandemic. As further reassurance for those who may be considering treatment but have fears about the Coronavirus, we’ve compiled this list of six reasons to consider mental health and addiction treatment now.
Reason #1 – The Effects of COVID-19 on Mental Health and Mental Health Issues
The mental health effects of the Coronavirus are a compelling reason to seek treatment now. We at FHE Health have seen firsthand how COVID-19 is affecting the mental health of Americans. Both COVID-19 itself and necessary responses to it in the form of social distancing are taking an unprecedented toll on mental health:
- Greater isolation alone can affect mental health. Research shows that loneliness and solitary confinement are major risk factors for many diseases. Isolation is also a predictor of symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- The Coronavirus and its fallout are causing anxiety levels to spike. As the grim statistics cataloguing new cases and deaths only seem to worsen with each passing day, more and more Americans are now dealing with the fallout and facing fears of infection, empty store shelves, unemployment, and/or not being able to pay the bills or put food on the table. Meanwhile, first responders, healthcare workers and others on the frontlines of this crisis are under fire like never before. That chronic build-up of stress and the inundation of traumatic scenes of people dying from COVID-19 can trigger PTSD. Rising rates of PTSD and other anxiety-related conditions have also been recorded among people who are in quarantine.
- Managing rising depression rates during the Coronavirus outbreak is already an urgent public health challenge. As experts debate how to prevent a possible economic depression in coming months, the telehealth sector has been triaging a more life-threatening form of depression. In recent days, teletherapy regulations have been loosened to meet the unprecedented need for mental health services. Meanwhile, many mental health professionals are predicting an “epidemic” of depression and anxiety as this pandemic drags on.
Reason #2: The Effects of COVID-19 on Addiction and Relapse Rates
The effects of COVID-19 also extend to people with a drug or alcohol problem and those in early recovery from addiction— many of whom have relapsed or are at greater risk of relapse because of higher stress levels and social isolation. Addicts are at risk during the Coronavirus pandemic, The Guardian recently reported.
Another manifestation of the impact of COVID-19: higher rates of substance misuse in an effort to cope with stress. Common examples include binge or heavy drinking, or taking more than prescribed of a medication.
Substance abuse, whether it’s in the early stages or in the context of an addiction relapse, is another very good reason to seek treatment now. Still, many people naturally may be wondering, “Should I seek rehab during the Coronavirus outbreak?” The answer is “yes.” What follows are more reasons why….
Four More Reasons Why Now Is an Ideal Time for Mental Health and Addiction Treatment
While fears about the Coronavirus can be an understandable obstacle to getting urgently needed drug and alcohol rehab or other mental health services, consider these other reasons why now is an ideal time for treatment….
Reason #3: Making the most of this extended downtime/time off from work
Thanks to “shelter in place” orders and the temporary closure of many businesses and organizations, the only option for most Americans is to stay home and pass the time, including finding ways to cope with anxiety, boredom, depression and isolation. While the temptation during this stressful period can be to fall back on unhealthy lifestyle choices, a better, more lifegiving alternative is to make the most of this period by investing in better health and learning new self-care strategies with the help of a quality treatment provider. Seeking the critical care of mental health or addiction treatment is considered a medical need, thus an essential service.
Reason #4: Being in a safer, medically controlled environment
Depending on their living situation and other health factors, some people with addiction or a severe mental health condition may be especially vulnerable to COVID-19. They may be homeless, living on the streets, and/or engaging in risky behaviors that lower their immunity to COVID-19 (and, in turn, put others at risk of the Coronavirus). In these cases, a decision to get immediate medical help for an addiction or mental illness is the safest and most responsible choice they can make.
Reason #5: Because detoxing at home is even more medically risky right now
During a time when many people are afraid to enter a medical facility of any kind, the idea of detoxing from drugs and alcohol at home may at first seem like a good idea. It’s not. Depending on the substance, your individual health history and other variables, detoxing from drugs or alcohol without medical supervision puts you at risk of potentially life-threatening complications. In the case that your life is at risk because of a seizure or other severe withdrawal symptom, the best-case scenario would be ending up in an emergency room— the last place anyone wants to be right now. Some withdrawal symptoms may also be hard to differentiate from symptoms of COVID-19 (with the same result of landing you in an emergency room where the risks of infection are highest).
Reason #6: Treatment Facilities Have Stringent Infection Control Policies
Most high-quality treatment facilities such as FHE Health have implemented high-level infection control policies and procedures to address fears of COVID-19 and protect patients. At FHE Health, for example, we are rigorously following the CDC’s guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19. We also have enacted a high-level protocol for infectious disease control that includes:
- multiple screenings for new patients admitting to our facility
- checking staff and patients’ vital signs at regular intervals throughout the day and requiring staff with any potential symptoms of the Coronavirus to not come to work
- minimizing close contact between patients and staff
- the ready availability of hand sanitizer and other antibacterial and disinfectant cleaning supplies
- thorough and heightened regularity of cleaning and sanitation of our facilities
For anyone considering treatment for a mental health condition or drug or alcohol problem, these six reasons to go to rehab now rather than later are a comforting reminder that there are safe and effective treatment solutions within reach, and that now is as good a time or better to seek care.