The COVID-19 pandemic and the growing need to improve addiction treatment are two of the world’s most critical challenges on a collision course with one another. Long before COVID-19, communities around the globe lacked an evidence-based, organized, system-wide health care response to the prevalent and serious disease of addiction. Combined with the current pandemic, people with substance use disorders today face unprecedented challenges that we must recognize and immediately address—together.
Last week, Virginia Center for Addiction Medicine hosted a multi-disciplinary discussion with leaders in the addiction treatment community called “Recovery in the Era of Coronavirus: An Expert Panel Discussion.” Dr. Jimmy Thompson, co-founder and chief medical officer for the Virginia Center for Addiction Medicine, led the discussion as the moderator. Dr. Thompson began working in addiction medicine while still a resident in Internal Medicine at VCU and has since dedicated his career to improving and advancing addiction treatment. He was one of the first Richmond area physicians to become certified by the American Board of Addiction Medicine.
Dr. Thompson was joined by Dr. Andreas Bienert, clinical program director at Virginia Center for Addiction Medicine; Mike Feinmel, deputy commonwealth’s attorney, Henrico County Government; Mike Zohab, Virginia Dept. of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS); Dr. Jonathan Lee, The Farley Center at Williamsburg Place; Peter Pennington, Mount Regis Center; Center Honesty Liller, McShin Foundation; Dr. Sarah Scarbrough, REAL LIFE; Jimmy Christmas, River City Integrative Counseling; Shannon Taylor, Commonwealth’s Attorney, Henrico County Government; Sam Davis, Broad Highway Recovery; and Angela Weight, Virginia Dept. of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS).
You can watch the full conversation, “Recovery in the Era of Coronavirus: An Expert Panel Discussion,” HERE. Throughout the webinar, our experts discuss the unique challenges of COVID-19 for those battling addiction, the structural hurdles that our healthcare system is facing, stigma and social issues, and how the concept of physical distancing can impact the most vulnerable patients who rely on support systems to help them reach recovery.
“An outpatient program like ours, one that encourages connections with others, is a combination of medical, psychiatric, and professional counseling combined with recovery coaching all in one program,” explained Dr. Thompson during the discussion. “A typical patient is seeing one member of our team or another at least once or twice a week, and some even more through our outpatient and IOP programs. Like a lot of folks, however, we saw the writing on the wall in the middle of March and realized we were going to have to make an unprecedented move from live, face-to-face care for over 900 active patients to an entirely virtual setting.”
You can listen to Dr. Thompson’s share the Virginia Center for Addiction Medicine’s transition to telehealth as well as other panelists, treatment providers, and recovery organizations discuss their efforts to open doors, provide contact and constant communication with their patients in new ways during this health crisis.
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.