Fighting Drug Abuse

Recovery coaches raising awareness of overdoses during pandemic

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When the coronavirus hit this spring, Maddy Edmiston tackled a new challenge in her recovery from substance use disorder: the isolation of stay-at-home orders.

The extra free time challenged Edmiston to find activities she could do inside her house. She signed into virtual self-help meetings and kept in touch with her support system over her phone.

“I had to … just really take it one day at a time to create a whole new routine for myself instead of just, like, getting stuck,” said Edmiston, who helps other people in recovery find jobs and other services as a certified peer recovery coach for Integrated Wellness.

Edmiston and her co-worker Macy Jones are organizing an overdose awareness event at the Recovery Rec Center, 1300 Ladoga Road, to promote local services.

The event is set for 2 to 5 p.m. Aug. 30. Representatives from local mental health agencies, faith-based recovery programs and the Community Paramedicine Program will be on hand.

Overdose survivors will share their stories and photos of people who’ve died from overdoses will be placed on a memorial tree. Naloxone and education about the overdose-reversing medication is also being made available.

Leading up to the pandemic, Montgomery County seemed to be making inroads in the fight against drug abuse. The Community Paramedicine Program was responding to fewer calls for overdoses, substance abuse or mental health issues.

“It definitely didn’t go away, but it was being reduced quite a bit,” said Joe Crane, a firefighter/paramedic on the program’s Quick Response Team, which connects patients to local mental health facilities and other services.

“And then when the isolation from COVID started” — with people not working or being able to go to the doctor — “we’ve seen all those needs increase,” Crane added.

Nearly half of all overdoses in 2020 have occurred in
May and June, according to
statistics on emergency room admissions tracked by the Montgomery County Health Department.

More than two thirds of this year’s opiate overdoses were reported over the same period, according to the health department.

The number of overdose-related deaths was not made available because the department is waiting to finalize the numbers.

Members of the Quick Response Team have seen new drug use in patients they hadn’t treated before. Alcoholism is also becoming more of a problem, said Rachel Kenner, early intervention specialist for the Crawfordsville Fire Department.

Due to the pandemic, detox facilities have a wait list and most in-person self-help meetings were halted. Recovery coaches have seen clients who’ve lost their jobs and fallen behind on rent.

“This whole COVID really shut down so much and it caused so many problems that people don’t really notice until we’re, like, on the ground working it,” Kenner said.

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