Recently, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Director James Carroll and Senior Advisor for Rural Affairs Anne Hazlett briefed members of ARC’s Substance Abuse Advisory Council (SAAC) about federal strategies ensuring that Americans struggling with addiction can receive services and support during the COVID-19 crisis. During the briefing call, Carroll said that he is deeply concerned during COVID about the vulnerability of people with substance use disorder to the virus and to relapse in their recovery. At the same time however, the pandemic has created a big opportunity to make significant policy changes in access to treatment and recovery services through telemedicine. Lastly, Carroll said that the Administration is deeply committed to ensuring that people are connected to the resources and recovery support systems they need to get well and stay healthy in this critical time.
Offering a regional perspective, SAAC member Karen Kelley, Executive Director of TROSA, a comprehensive recovery program in North Carolina, described how they are readjusting their services to meet health and safety needs, while still providing continuity of care to their clients. Meanwhile, SAAC member Bob Hansen, Director of the Office of Drug Control Policy at West Virginia’s Department of Health and Human Resources described how West Virginia’s Jobs and Hope Initiative has developed a smartphone app to help those in recovery continue to receive needed services.
“It is easy for us to become distracted in the face of COVID-19,” said ARC Federal Co-Chairman Tim Thomas during the briefing. “but it is important to remember to stay focused on the substance abuse crisis, which has become a pandemic on top of a pandemic.”