The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is a force of healing and hope for individuals, families and communities affected by addiction to alcohol and other drugs. During this particularly tenuous time, it’s important to note the online services that are offered to those in need. While it serves clients from all over the world, Hazelden Betty Ford has 17 locations nationwide (five treatment locations in Minnesota, include Chaska, Plymouth and Maple Grove). It also offers a virtual mental health, addiction treatment services and recovery support. We reached out to Jeremiah Gardner, director of communications and public affairs, for information that might be of particular use during stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19.
What online services do you have in place?
JG: The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is bringing addiction treatment to people wherever they may be—including to those currently at home due to the coronavirus—with its RecoveryGo™ telehealth solutions, which expanded last month with the launch of insurance-covered group therapy—connecting patients and their counselors in real-time via personal computers and mobile devices. We have successfully transitioned 75 percent of patients nationwide to virtual outpatient services and are accepting new patients directly into virtual outpatient services, as well as scheduling thousands of appointments for virtual mental health services. More often than not, substance use disorders are accompanied by co-occurring mental health conditions. Treating these disorders at the same time improves recovery outcomes. In addition to virtual outpatient and mental health care, Hazelden Betty Ford's RecoveryGo telehealth solutions include:
· Online health portal: My Recovery Compass includes access to MORE (My Ongoing Recovery Experience), a web- and phone-based system of recovery support provided by licensed clinicians. It also includes brief, research-based questionnaires to help clinicians better understand a patient's progress so they can guide the course of care—also known as Feedback-Informed Treatment (FIT).
· Family services: Recovery is stronger when all family members understand the nature of drug addiction and are involved in the healing process. ConnectionTM for Families supports the health and wellbeing of family members who are also affected by addiction. Additionally, the Family Program is now meeting virtually with full-day sessions.
· Recovery support services: We have almost 30 online support meetings every week at TheDailyPledge.org. Additionally, Hazelden Betty Ford's ConnectionTM program provides clinical support in early recovery to improve long-term outcomes, and its mobile apps and online recovery communities support people throughout the recovery journey.
· Training and consultation: Hazelden Betty Ford works alongside other treatment providers and community organizations to help them integrate virtual service offerings to reach more people.
Do you have any podcasts, apps or other special content?
JG: We have many online resources at hazeldenbettyford.org. There are links to online meetings, free meditations, helpful blogs and the award-winning podcast series, Let’s Talk—all of which allow people to find support and not feel the anxiety of being alone. We’ve made four of our most popular mobile recovery apps free at this time, and in just two weeks, we had more than 25,000 downloads.
How are you addressing group-therapy or support sessions?
JG: The new virtual outpatient services were designed to replicate Hazelden Betty Ford's face-to-face patient care experience, combining group therapy and individual counseling sessions via legally compliant technology, with
wraparound telehealth services, as well. Our platform Mend offers end-to-end encryption—the gold standard for safety and security.
Have you witnessed an uptick in people reaching out for help?
JG: … Interest in our virtual outpatient services and mental health services outpace what we saw before the stay-at-home orders, and we have noted an increase in distress among our callers.
How can families and friends help those suffering with the extra stress of the COVID-19 outbreak?
JG: Everyone needs to be aware of how they feel both physically and mentally right now. Anxiety and isolation are an especially bad recipe for people with substance use disorders. At Hazelden Betty Ford, we emphasize physical distancing, rather than the term social distancing, because addiction is a disease of isolation, and the community experience of sharing stories and understanding you are not alone is so integral to recovery.
For people in recovery, it’s so important to stay connected, even if remotely through online meetings. In fact, a study out last month affirmed the value of AA and other Twelve Step meetings that keep people connected in fellowship. Even a simple phone call or text to a peer can help in these times. If you have friends or family members in recovery, consider reaching out to them to let them know none of us is alone. We are in this together. And, if you have friends or family members who are struggling with substance use right now, let them know help is available.
There are many social media references to coping with stay-at-home orders through alcohol and drug use. What advice do you offer for monitoring alcohol/drug intake during this time?
JG: We’re seeing reports of alcohol and other substance use being way up right now, as people at home cope. That is not a normal or healthy approach. Instead of using alcohol and other drugs, now more than ever it’s important to focus on healthy coping mechanisms like getting good sleep, eating well, exercising and connecting with others.
What advice do you have for parents of teens?
JG: For anyone at home with teens, these times can be particularly challenging. Teens may be short-tempered or want to isolate even further from the rest of the family. Such cabin fever could be perfectly normal at a time like this, or it could be part of a larger issue. Families are seeing things up close right now that they were perhaps only seeing in passing before. This can be a time for parents to discern if what they are seeing is a symptom of an underlying substance use or mental health issue.
“There is always hope and these times will pass. Recovery is always possible and help is available even at a time like now. In these challenging times, access to healing and hope is now more available than ever. Please reach out; we are here to help.” –Jeremiah Gardner, Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation
Visit RecoveryGo.org to learn more about virtual services and online help. Help is available 24/7. Call 1.800.I.DO.CARE to talk confidentially with a recovery expert.