It’s been a tough few months for many Americans. A once in a century pandemic has so far killed more than 140,000 people in the United States, causing untold grief and distress while sending the economy into a tailspin.
As if painful isolation from friends and family and anxiety over catching a deadly virus wasn’t bad enough, May and June saw the addition of social unrest and protests over widespread racism. This kind of prolonged, relentless stress cannot remain without consequences.
Mental health and addiction professionals across the United States are now warning that the need for behavioral health services is growing. But while the need for services is growing, many states are faced with budgetary shortfalls. “Colorado is cutting spending on a number of mental health and substance use treatment programs,” Markian Hawryluk reported for Kaiser Health News and The Denver Post in July.
“In Colorado, lawmakers had to fill a $3.3 billion hole in the budget for fiscal year 2020, which started July 1. That included cuts to a handful of mental health programs, with small overall savings but potentially significant impact on those who relied on them.”
Tragically, state legislatures have been forced to consider healthcare cuts and delay new health programs even in the midst of a healthcare crisis. But many lawmakers and health experts are concerned the cuts needed now to balance budgets could make the situation far worse down the line.
“Healthcare cuts tend to be on the table, and of course, it’s counterproductive,” Edwin Park, a health policy professor at Georgetown University told Colorado Public Radio. “When there’s a recession, people lose their jobs and health insurance the very moment when people need those health programs the most.” Some of those cuts were offset by $15.2 million in federal CARES Act funding allocated to behavioral healthcare programs. Some programs, however, were completely defunded.
Doyle Forrestal, CEO of the Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council, worries that resources won’t be there for an emerging wave of mental health and substance use disorders unleashed by the pandemic. “People who are isolated at home are drinking a lot more, maybe having other problems — isolation, economic despair,” she told Kaiser Health News. “There’s going to be a whole new influx once all of this takes hold.”
Isolation and despair are indeed widely acknowledged drivers of addiction and mood disorders. At the same time, physical distancing measures implemented to contain the COVID-19 outbreak have made it more difficult to provide treatment. A lot of therapeutic face-to-face engagement cannot simply be replaced with an online platform. Harmony continues to serve people suffering from a substance use disorder and has implemented a number of precautionary measures to ensure staff and client safety. Delaying addiction treatment—even during a pandemic—is not a good idea.
Harmony has provided cutting-edge treatment at its Estes Park center in Colorado for half a century. Our modern, evidence-based approach to addiction treatment acknowledges the important role mental health conditions play as drivers of substance use disorders. People may misuse drugs and alcohol because of mental health issues like trauma, depression, and anxiety—all currently intensified by the pandemic.
If co-occurring conditions aren’t addressed, clients are more likely to relapse because they may be tempted to use substances to self-medicate those issues. All staff at Harmony have been trained in trauma-informed care. Modern addiction treatment requires a comprehensive, holistic approach that addresses all mental health issues relevant to the substance misuse and provides a solid foundation for sustained recovery from addiction.