Addiction & Mental Health Support During a Global Pandemic

Long before COVID-19, we’ve lacked as a community an evidence-based, system-wide health care response to the disease of addiction. Combined with the current pandemic, people with substance use disorders today face increasing challenges that we must recognize and immediately address. Last week, Virginia Center for Addiction Medicine hosted a multi-disciplinary conversation with leaders in the addiction treatment community to discuss how best to provide support during these unprecedented times.  

The conversation, called “Addiction & Mental Health Support During a Global Pandemic: Perspectives from Frontline Responders,” was moderated by Dan Jenkins of Virginia Center for Addiction Medicine via Zoom Webinar. Panelists included Dr. Andreas Bienert, Clinical Director, Virginia Center for Addiction Medicine; Doug Bevelaqua, former Inspector General of Behavioral Health for the Commonwealth of Virginia; Mark Blackwell, Director of Recovery Services, Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services; Captain Robert Wershbale, Henrico County Police; Lieutenant Jerry Hoyt, Henrico County Police, and Karen Stanley, President & CEO, The Healing Place – Richmond VA and CARITAS.

You can watch the full conversation, “Addiction & Mental Health Support During a Global Pandemic: Perspectives from Frontline Responders,” HERE.

Topics include:
-The unique challenges each organization has encountered since the onset of the pandemic.
-How the approach to treatment and social interaction has changed in response to the pandemic.
-The increased risk of relapse during the pandemic.
-The increase in alcohol consumption since lockdown and its impact on the need for detox from alcohol abuse.
-How local police departments have worked alongside other organizations to assist with challenging circumstances, from homelessness to addiction.
-How the community can help.
-Drug related and mental health related calls since the pandemic began.
-Domestic conflict statistics that have included drugs and alcohol during the pandemic.
-How law enforcement is responding when loved ones and users ask for help.
-Statistics on overdoses over the past two months.
-Drug and alcohol related arrests and other trends noted by law enforcement during the pandemic.


The team at Virginia Center for Addiction Medicine is available at all times to help people with substance use disorder during these unprecedented circumstances and beyond the current pandemic. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance misuse during the COVID-19 pandemic, contact Virginia Center for Addiction Medicine at (804) 207-8118.

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