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Dear Legislators and Public Officials,
Thank you for your continued efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic, which has created a great deal of fear and anxiety across the country. In Missouri, the addiction recovery community has been significantly impacted by COVID-19, opening the door to new challenges and concerns for treatment providers, mental health professionals and those who are in and seeking recovery from substance use disorders.
As you continue to make emergency policy decisions and determine how to allocate funds to address the coronavirus outbreak, please remember the important work that mental health and addiction treatment professionals are doing to support some of Missouri’s most vulnerable individuals. In particular, we ask that you invest in peer support services, recovery housing and treatment services--all of which are critical to long-term recovery.
Peer support services have been significantly impacted by COVID-19. Peers play a major role in recovery housing and treatment settings, using their personal recovery experiences to support and advocate for their clients who are working toward recovery. Peer-based recovery has been linked to improved relationships with treatment providers, increased treatment retention, better access to social supports, decreased criminal justice involvement and emergency service utilization, greater housing stability and reduced substance use.
Because of the outbreak, peers have had to take on new tasks, taking away time spent with clients one-on-one and leading to burnout—a common issue among peers under normal circumstances, but one that has been exacerbated by the isolation and disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Adequately funding the recovery community overall, including recovery housing and treatment services, will ensure that peers are being utilized as effectively as possible.
Recovery housing operators are stretching their budgets to purchase food and other essential items for residents, many of whom have lost their jobs and are struggling to afford rent, food, transportation and other basic needs. Some housing providers have even had to invest in additional technology to ensure residents can utilize telehealth services.
In addition, while some treatment services are being offered online and via telehealth, others have been suspended or shut down completely for the time being. Given the already compromised immune systems of their clientele, treatment agencies have no choice but to exercise extreme caution. However, closing their doors, even temporarily, may be detrimental—not just for those in and seeking recovery, but for programs’ financial stability, even long after the outbreak subsides.
We have already begun to see a significant increase in demand for mental health services, and unfortunately, we expect this trend to continue as more people experience layoffs, financial insecurity and unprecedented feelings of isolation and stress. Missouri must invest in its recovery infrastructure today—especially peer support services, recovery housing and treatment services—so that we can continue serving those who need us in the weeks, months and years to come.
We welcome your questions and the opportunity to discuss how our addiction recovery community can best be supported during these challenging times. Thank you, again, for your continued efforts.
The following organizations and individuals support greater investment in Missouri’s recovery community amid the COVID-19 pandemic:
Recovery House of St. Louis
Missouri Coalition of Recovery Support Providers
Hope Homes of the Ozarks
Freedom City Church
ASCENT Recovery Residences
Recycling Grace Women’s Center
COPS Outpatient Treatment
FaithWalk Ministry, Inc.
The Road Men’s House
Southeast Missouri Recovery Alliance
National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse
Haven Recovery Homes
Missouri Recovery Network
Comtrea Health Center
Living In Victory
Fred Rottnek, MD, MAHCM, Program Director, Addiction Medicine Fellowship, Saint Louis University School of Medicine
* denotes peer support specialist/individual in recovery