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WESTFIELD — Some recovery advocates in the state are bracing for a potential increase in mental health and substance use-related issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Advocates say mental health issues, like anxiety, depression and substance use, can increase because of the effects of the pandemic. They’re looking at the way some communities in Indiana are already responding to these issues as a way to help connect people in need to resources.
In Westfield, a Quick Response Team, or QRT, which includes members of the Westfield police and fire departments and a peer recovery coach, works to guide patients towards recovery after an overdose.
The QRT in Westfield is a part of the Hamilton County Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs.
Once Naloxone, an opioid reversal drug also known as Narcan, is administered, the QRT meets with the patient to help connect them to resources they may need.
While Westfield hasn’t seen an increase in overdose calls during the pandemic, the team is using virtual meetings to continue helping patients while still following social distancing guidelines, Eryn Green, a Westfield Fire Department field resource paramedic and member of the QRT, said.
The team works to help guide a patient through whatever step of recovery they are ready for and connect them to resources they may need, Green said.
“It’s all guided by the patient and what they’re ready for at that point in time,” Green said. “Some people are not ready for going away for recovery, but maybe they’re willing to go to meetings. Our peer recovery coach, who is someone who has lived experience with addiction who’s in long term recovery, really connects with people and can get them the resources that they are needing at that time.”
Quick response teams are also helping people in several communities throughout Indiana, including South Bend, Lafayette, and others in Hamilton County.
More than 500 in-person meetings took place in Central Indiana before the social distancing guidelines were put in place, Brandon George, vice president of programs and recovery for Mental Health America of Indiana, said.
Quick response teams are responding to patients needs and helping people with substance use issues who may feel isolated during the pandemic, George said.
“QRTs have been a great asset in the battle of addiction and how our communities have been responding,” George said. “It’s had a good impact. It’s community responding to their needs.”
George said some communities are seeing an increase in drug and alcohol use during the pandemic. This could lead to wave of mental health and substance use disorder issues.
He said he believes the QRTs in the state can help communities if they start seeing an increase in substance use-related calls.
“Having access to resources to help people in our community is really, really critical,” George said.
He said he is hopeful other communities will see how effective the teams have been.
“I think that we all learn from our neighbors and what other people are doing,” George said. “We don’t want to reinvent the wheel. We want to use things that are effective in other communities, and this is definitely one of those things.”
Green said one of the biggest barriers the team has faced is the stigma still surrounding substance use and mental health issues.
“There’s still that silence around this problem and I think that if people know about these things, know that we’re here to help in any way possible and not be punitive in any way, hopefully we can get more people to take advantage of this program,” Green said.
- To connect with a recovery coach for mental health issues or a substance use disorder, visit the Indiana Recovery Network's website.
- To get Naloxone and family support, view more information on Overdose Lifeline's website.
- Be Well Indiana, a new website from the Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addiction, has more information on available resources.
- You can also call 211 for help connecting to available resources.