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The COVID-19 pandemic has had long-lasting effects that we most likely won’t understand the full impact of for many years to come. Two years ago we had no idea that the virus would touch every aspect of our lives, from how we shop and get groceries, to how we work and socialize. Most things went online as a necessity, including medical appointments and meetings.

Unfortunately, so much of the recovery process is dependent upon face-to-face interactions and groups. Recovery communities such as 12 Step meetings were forced to operate online or not at all and many people lost a necessary source of comfort and accountability. Social distancing, curfews, and masks were implemented to curb the spread of a deadly virus but we felt the adverse effects of losing personal connection and community as well.

Mental health, already a hot topic of conversation, became even more prevalent as we spent more and more time in isolation. Many mental health conditions and substance use disorders thrive in isolation and as time went on, those of us in the mental health space began to suspect how many people were suffering and unwilling or unable to ask for help. While Telehealth is a fantastic resource, it was not available to everyone who needed it.

We will continue to value the health and safety of our residents but as we continue to move forward and heal, our priority is to reestablish necessary resources for connection and community-building. As a trauma treatment center, we will continue to help our residents reach the root of their trauma and unpack maladaptive coping mechanisms, including those developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trauma & Mental Health

The global pandemic had a huge impact on the recovery industry. We all felt the adverse effects and we noticed an increase in reported mental health issues, most commonly depression and anxiety. As a trauma-focused inpatient recovery center, we were uniquely positioned to take on the challenge of treating the trauma incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. We were able to add treatments of symptoms that are directly related to the effects of the pandemic. We have frequently said that no trauma is too small and the global trauma we all experienced is certainly not small. If you developed or returned to maladaptive coping mechanisms during the pandemic, know that you are not alone.

Preliminary data has shown that since 2019, drug and alcohol use increased, especially in healthcare workers and first responders. There was also a reported increase in substance use by people with clinical anxiety. Isolation and pandemic-related stress exacerbated existing mental health conditions and substance use. Additionally, the numbers of overdoses continue to rise, likely partially related to the increased use of substances.

Whether you lost loved ones, were sick yourself, worked in healthcare, were a first responder, or found your depression and anxiety became worse because of isolation, know that we understand and hear you. We increased our programs that focus on processing grief and trauma and placed people in groups with others with similar experiences where they could have a safe place to share and be heard.

How Sabino Recovery Responded to the Virus?

We were just as affected by the uncertainty of the times as everyone. Luckily, we were able to maintain a sense of peace and safety by continuing to make the health and wellbeing of our residents our first priority. We are grateful to continue to be an oasis of healing in the desert.

The steps we took:

  • Paid close attention to State and CDC guidelines
  • Ensured that our social distancing and mask procedures followed those guidelines
  • Regularly tested our staff and residents
  • Adopted social distancing, used masks, and frequently sanitized community areas

We experienced a unique challenge in the pandemic in that what we do relies heavily on face-to-face connection and vulnerability. This was made difficult with masks and social distancing as so much of human interaction relies on reading facial expressions. We did everything we could to make our residents feel comfortable and moved many group sessions outdoors. We got to take advantage of the amazing environment while making sure people felt safe and could build relationships through mutual trust and intimacy.

What it Looks Like Now

While the COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult, we have also implemented some positive changes along the way.

Tools like Zoom and Google Meet have allowed our care teams to collaborate on projects when they are not on campus, which includes outpatient therapists and psychologists. Better collaboration allows us to provide highly effective, quality care to residents and set up extended care plans for residents.

Telehealth appointments used to mainly be for people who lived in places where they did not have access to a doctor or therapist. During the pandemic, many doctors made Telehealth a more accessible option and a lot of people got used to this! Many patients like the flexibility and privacy of online appointments. Another positive of online communication is that you can access communities and people around the world. People can attend 12 Step meetings online and more easily connect with their communities.

We have fine-tuned our infection control processes. Cleanliness has always been important to us but we have amplified our sanitation procedures. Hand sanitizer is available throughout the campus and high touch surfaces are sanitized frequently throughout the day. Keeping these processes in place will help us to keep everyone healthy through the continuation of the pandemic and help us to be prepared for anything like COVID-19 in the future.

New and incoming residents are greeted by our wonderful intake team and will be asked pre-screening questions about possible exposure and symptoms. We ensure that new residents are tested before they arrive on campus for both their safety and the safety of our community. If someone begins to show symptoms of COVID-19, they will quarantine and be monitored closely by our nursing team. We also make sure to watch infection rates in Pima County to keep residents safe during off-campus team-building exercises.

If you are Struggling:

If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health issues, stress, substance use, or grief after the COVID-19 pandemic and need help, start by reaching out to your doctor or therapist for guidance. To take the next step to true healing, contact us at Sabino Recovery.

Our intake team is happy to point you towards the help you need. This could be resources in your community or more information about inpatient treatment. Any program or resource that our team recommends aligns with our values and has been thoroughly vetted by our staff. 844-227-7014