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Miami Valley Groups Boost Mental Health Resources During Coronavirus Isolation

FOA advocates against the stigma that often surrounds addiction
Maddie McGarvey
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WYSO
Recovery organizations are mobilizing to reach struggling addicts during the coronavirus Stay At Home order.

Montgomery County is offering additional mental health and addiction assistance during the coronavirus Stay At Home order. The governor’s office this week extended the statewide order until May 1. And some Miami Valley mental health advocates worry prolonged social distancing could pose a special challenge for people in recovery from addiction.

Numbers show overdose deaths are up by 58 percent in Montgomery County over this time last year. While it's impossible to link the increase directly to the coronavirus pandemic, Montgomery County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services officials say isolation, trauma related to job loss and health concerns could fuel increased use of illicit drugs such as opiates.

The Stay At Home order bars large gatherings and what health officials deem non-essential businesses from operating, and many group-based recovery support programs are on hold.

The closures could put some recovering addicts in potential danger of relapse, says Lori Erion, founder of FOA Families of Addicts in Dayton. People new to recovery could be at especially high risk for backsliding.

Lori Erion founded the Dayton nonprofit Families of Addicts or FOA.
Credit Maddie McGarvey / WYSO
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WYSO

“Structure is really important at that point. And drug courts are not functioning and the groups aren’t functioning and so all of that structure of being where you need to be at a certain time isn’t in place," she says.

Many struggling addicts lack computer access and would have trouble participating in online Narcotics Anonymous and other 12-step programs, Erion says, and many rely on in-person meetings to maintain their recovery.  

"There's a percent that are going to be resilient and a percent that's not going to be able to be resilient -- they're just not there yet," Erion says. "And so, we're going be dealing with all of that on the back end of this."

The Dayton area has made significant progress in recent years in bringing down the number of drug overdoses and opioid-related deaths, including the work of the Montgomery County Community Overdose Action Team to increase access to treatment beds and recovery resources in communities hard hit by the opioid epidemic, and distribute naloxone and training for community members in how to prevent and respond to an overdose. 

The Miami Valley Warmline is a partnership between Montgomery County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services, and Goodwill Easterseals Miami Valley.
The Miami Valley Warmline is a partnership between Montgomery County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services, and Goodwill Easterseals Miami Valley.

For now, Erion says FOA still plans to hold its annual Rally 4 Recovery this August, an event that typically draws tens of thousands of participants to Courthouse Square in downtown Dayton.

FOA and Dayton Recovers are among the  nonprofits partnering with other existing mental health and recovery groups across Southwest Ohio to connect people struggling with their own or a loved one's addiction to help.   

And, new services are springing up during the coronavirus outbreak.   

To prevent a spike in overdoses, and to assist anyone struggling with mental health issues and isolation as Gov. DeWine's Stay At Home order continues, Montgomery County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services, and Goodwill Easterseals Miami Valley are partnering to offer phone-based assistance.

The Miami Valley Warmline provides free, confidential, mental health and behavioral health assistance every weekday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at (937) 528-7777.