Substance addiction and mental health care have been affected by COVID-19. Unfortunately, the longer the pandemic continues, the higher the rates of mental health and substance use disorders (SUD) continue to climb. However, despite the continued rise in rates, there is hope for those who suffer from mental health or substance use disorders.
COVID-19’s Effects on Mental Health and Substance Use Rates
From the time the pandemic began, the need for mental health and SUD services increased. The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) reports that over three in ten people said they have had symptoms of anxiety or depression since May 2020. The rate of anxiety or depression between January and June of 2019 was one in ten people. The report states that from April 28th to May 10th of 2021, approximately 33% of Californians said they experienced symptoms of anxiety or depression. In comparison, 30.7% of adults in America reported having symptoms of anxiety or depression.
Substance Use Disorder and Overdose Rates
The rates of substance overdose increased nationally due to opioid use. Substance-related mortality in California went up from 12.6 per 100,000 people in 2015 to 22.4 per 1000,000 in 2020. The KFF study reported deaths caused by substances were lower than the national average.
California actively addresses its substance use disorder issues by considering the federal government’s option with military veterans. The Associated Press reports that California lawmakers are reviewing the option to pay people to remain sober. The federal government found that one of the most effective ways to stop military veterans from using stimulants, methamphetamines, or cocaine is to pay them. California lawmakers hope the model the federal government uses will work in their state.
The incentive for payment to remain sober should be met with some caution. Before a person decides to discontinue substance use, they should enter a detox program staffed with professionals. A detox program prevents serious harm that can occur while a person is detoxing. Once a person completes their detoxification, they can then begin inpatient or outpatient treatment.
Barriers to Care
COVID-19 increased the need for mental health and substance addictions services. The pandemic created challenges and barriers for those who need access to care for mental health and substance use disorders. In-person appointments and services for mental health and SUDs halted because of the risk of contagion to clients and staff. Meanwhile, care was either delayed or switched to telehealth services. The effect on individuals who were being treated before the pandemic or developed a disorder due to pandemic-related stress has increased, as has the severity.
California and the federal government responded to the challenges of access to care by enacting legal reform. The measures provide short-term and long-term hope for those with a mental health disorder or SUD.
Financial Help for Telehealth Services
The pandemic highlighted the benefits of telehealth. Clients could receive care without the worry of contracting COVID-19. California took steps to eliminate access to telehealth services. Some of the measures include:
- Boosting coverage for all forms of telehealth (video and telephone) when appropriate
- Looking into text-based services
- Putting in place reimbursement policies that support patient choice
- Eradicating administrative barriers to care
- Reevaluating assess policies to decrease the amount of in-person appointments at narcotic treatment centers and replacing in-person with telehealth or take-home dosing when appropriate
Therapists have also aided clients by promoting and using telehealth services. For example, when California began to open up again, the therapists working to ensure the health and safety of their clients and staff aided in the transition from telehealth to in-person services. However, some clients weren’t comfortable returning to in-person care; therefore, the continuation of telehealth services benefits clients.
Hope in Treatment
COVID-19 changed the way people view treatment for mental health and substance use disorders. Therapists have also risen to the challenges of caring for clients during this time. Not only have they employed telehealth services, but they have created ways to continue the bond between therapist and client if the client isn’t ready to return to face-to-face care.
Some clients have returned to in-person appointments, while others are still uncomfortable with in-person sessions. Clients who feel they won’t be protected from COVID-19 if they return to in-office appointments may be prone to think of worse case scenarios and self-isolate. An option to help the client is to continue with telehealth appointments and combine those appointments with mindfulness exercises. The combination of technology with mind-based therapy urges the client to look within and assess their beliefs.
Clients who express symptoms of anxiety or depression may also feel fear overusing the coping techniques they learned in therapy at home. Guided meditation and reframing negative thoughts to positive thoughts can help.
Treatment for substance use and mental health disorders has changed since COVID-19 regulations changed. Telehealth services have taken the place of in-person therapy, and California enacted laws that decreased barriers to care. Despite the continued effects of the pandemic, like increased substance use and mortalities, there is hope for those with a mental health or substance use disorder.
The effects of the pandemic continue to linger. Whether a person was quarantine by themselves or with family, their well-being was affected. The increase of symptoms of mental health or substance use disorders in the population highlights the need to increase access to care. Telehealth remains a viable option for those who aren’t comfortable returning to in-person therapy. Sometimes, however, a client requires more than mental health treatment. For those who need assistance in addressing a substance use disorder, consider the professional and private approach provided by Alta Centers’ detoxification program. Our professional staff ensures your client’s health and safety. Substance use treatment takes time and Alta Centers encourages their clients to immerse themselves in the process. Our clients participate in experimental activities because we believe our clients should experience a sober lifestyle. We have a 24-hour hotline for alumni, family, and clients in case of crisis. Our professional staff welcomes the opportunity to speak with you. Call (888) 202-2583.