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Drug users seeking treatment amid the pandemic

Treatment centers tell us they're seeing not only more drug users turning to treatment, but more are sticking with it.
Published: Aug. 7, 2020 at 5:38 PM CDT
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MARINETTE, Wis. (WBAY) - The pandemic that’s caused so much stress and angst for many of us has actually resulted in a surprising and positive change for drug addicts.

Treatment centers tell us they're seeing not only more drug users turning to treatment, but more are sticking with it.

Seeking treatment for drug addiction is a huge step for any user, but doing it when we were all told to stay home and away from each other makes treatment sound nearly impossible. "When the Safer at Home orders came through, we were actually very concerned that we were going to lose a lot of our patients and they wouldn't be coming to treatment anymore, and totally the opposite was true, which was a welcome surprise," says Miranda Behnke, program manager at Libertas Treatment Center in Marinette.

She says counselors were prepared before the pandemic to try telemedicine with patients, but they had no idea how they would respond to it, and more importantly, if they would stick with it. “Some patients actually asked to be seen more frequently than the schedule we had for them,” explains Behnke.

In fact, the rate of people showing up for appointments surged from 50 percent pre-pandemic to 85 percent now. While there’s no real research yet why it’s happening, Behnke thinks having one-on-one and now even group therapy options from the comfort and safety of a person’s home is a big factor. “I think a lot of it right now is there’s so much uncertainty. There’s increased stress that has just come with all the rapid changes that we’re all facing right now that I think people are looking to help themselves,” she says.

The virtual visits also allow counselors to reach more people in rural areas where treatment may not have been as accessible, but Behnke says the big roadblock is getting insurance to cover those visits.

It's something they'll continue to push for after seeing success so far. "We are seeing quite a few new faces here which is great, because we want to help as many people as we possibly can," adds Behnke.

If you’d like more information about treatment options, click on the link: https://www.libertastreatment.org/

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