MHARS Board provides resources to help loved ones in active addiction or recovery
The local Mental Health, Addiction and Recovery Services (MHARS) Board is providing resources to help mitigate possible new risks to people in active addiction and long-term recovery during the pandemic.
“Your loved one may be more at risk of dying of an accidental overdose now, because of a combination of factors related to the pandemic,” says Elaine Georgas, Interim Executive Director of the MHARS Board. “We are especially concerned about people on their recovery journey who are isolated, and might be exposed to illicit drugs with highly dangerous, unknown components while they are also experiencing withdrawal symptoms or reduced tolerance.”
Initial data through the local law enforcement New World system shows incidents of overdose increased slightly in March, and then increased threefold in April, with May following the same trend, according to Sarah Reinhold, the MHARS Board First Response Project Manager and data analyst.
Georgas notes ways to be prepared to help a loved one in active addiction and recovery, including:
- Connect with support for all family members through Let’s Get Real, Inc., to learn how to help a loved one in active addiction or in recovery from a substance use disorder: 440-963-7042. Also ask about online recovery groups.
- Sit with your loved one while they call the local addiction helpline to seek treatment, available 24/7: 440-989-4900.
- Ask all friends, loved ones and colleagues to add the Crisis Text Line to the contacts list in their phone: 741741. This is a free, confidential option to help people through a moment of distress, no matter what the challenge is.
- Request a free Narcan rescue kit from Lorain County Public Health by visiting www.loraincountyhealth.com/opioids. Narcan is a medicine that may reverse an overdose caused by an opioid drug like Percocet, Vicodin, morphine, Demerol, heroin, and Oxycontin. Narcan is an emergency medicine that blocks the effect of the opioid on the brain and can help a person start breathing again. It does not reverse overdoses caused by non-opioid drugs like cocaine, alcohol, methamphetamines and benzodiazepines.
- Request a free medication disposal pouch to safely remove old or unused prescriptions from your home medicine cabinets, by contacting 440-282-9920.
- If you know that a loved one will use dangerous drugs, and may use them alone, tell them about the national Never Use Alone service available at 1-800-484-3731. This service asks callers for their location, allergies or medical conditions, and then an operator stays on the line with the caller while they use drugs. If the caller becomes unresponsive, the operator will notify emergency services of possible overdose. The service’s philosophy is to provide recovery help if requested, but they state: “We recognize that you will only quit when you’re ready to quit. We just want to help keep you alive until that time comes.”
- If you know someone in long-term recovery, who has been sober or drug-free for months or years, check in on them frequently. This period of reduced social contact can be dangerous for them. Search “Ohio Strive for 5” and #OHStrive5 for tips on how to stay connected.
Georgas notes that the unprecedented nature of the pandemic means that behavioral health specialists cannot know for certain that there are new risk factors, or that those may cause an increase in deaths. However, she urges action on data that is beginning to show an upward trend coinciding with the pandemic.
The National Institutes of Health called the opioid epidemic within the coronavirus pandemic a “collision of public health crises.”
The medical examiner for nearby Cuyahoga County issued a public health alert on May 19 after seeing a spike in drug overdose deaths. Soon after, the state’s Mental Health and Addiction Services department issued a notice of an increase in suspected drug overdose emergency department visits, citing anomalies in nine other counties across Ohio.
So far in 2020, 41 deaths by overdose have been recorded in Lorain County.
Georgas notes that in the wake of national or collective tragedy or distress, like that of a major health crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, rates of substance use often increase, along with other behavioral health challenges like depression or PTSD. Services are available through the non-emergency Navigator line at 440-240-7025 during regular business hours. The crisis hotline is available 24/7 at 1-800-888-6161.
The MHARS Board serves as the local authority for community mental health and substance use services. The Board is the county agency responsible for the planning, evaluation and funding of needed programs and facilities for addiction and mental health services. Resources and information available at mharsloraincounty.org.