Recovery programs and treatment facilities are having to change the way they operate in the face of the COVID-19 crisis. (Nanaimo AA/John Van Hasselt/Corbis)

COVID-19: ‘Structure is really a critical factor,’ says Surrey recovery society CEO

The challenges treatment facilities are facing during the coronavirus crisis

Phoenix Society in Surrey is working day-by-day to navigate the challenges of treatment and recovery for those with drug and alcohol addictions in the face of COVID-19.

“Really, the steps that Phoenix has been taking over the last couple of weeks,” said Phoenix Society CEO Keir Macdonald, “has been trying to identify what adjustments have we had to make to our programs to comply with some of the physical distancing and self-isolation requirements, but also recognizing that we have programs that need to continue and lives that need to be supported through these tough times.”

Some of those changes, he said, includes expanding meal times at their facilities and reducing capacity by 50 per cent to follow social distancing. Phoenix Society has also had to eliminate some elective programs, and restrict outside visitors from coming to their evening meetings.

“Even our broader Phoenix alumni community, like it’s so tough not to be able to bring them back for meetings. They’ve always been able to have that ‘come home,’ connect with home base and people they know and an environment they know,” he said.

Phoenix has also started to screen staff and residents twice per day for “checks on temperature, have they had new or increasing coughs and other symptoms,” Macdonald said.

At Phoenix, he said, its whole community centres around two concepts: building community and connection, “and those things are a bit challenging right now, so we’re working quickly to adjust and to support everyone in those changes.”

”We just have to adjust to a way so that people, as much as health officials are encouraging us to self-isolate or practice social distancing, isolation is actually counter to what we’re preaching in recovery,” he noted. “We say that the opposite of addiction is connection, and that isolation is often what led to many harmful outcomes.”

Some of those changes include online meetings for Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Smart Recovery.

“What that gets to is structure is really a critical factor, especially for people in early recovery, but also for those trying to sustain recovery, meetings and their daily routines, whether that was work or school. (Those) were all important factors in doing that,” Macdonald said.

He added that people in recovery need structure and stability, whether they’re in early recovery or later recovery. It’s about a routine, he said.

“I think what we’re having to do now is say, ‘OK, if you can’t attend your regular meetings because that’s no longer being hosted, what can you do to stay connected?’” Macdonald said. “Because that’s what those meetings offered, was the opportunity to be engaged with likeminded people going through something similar to you and having that support and having that structure. So, if you can’t jump online, if you can’t do that, what we’re encouraging people to do is to still stay connected, to still reach out, whether that’s calling someone or sending a text or FaceTiming.”

For the latest COVID-19 stories, visit surreynowleader.com/tag/coronavirus.



lauren.collins@surreynowleader.com

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