VESTAL, NY (WSKG)—Over the course of the pandemic, many addiction recovery groups across the country were forced to move their meetings and support online.
The change was difficult for many people with addiction or mental health challenges, who were used to in-person meetings and felt isolated at home. However, some say virtual meetings also made recovery more accessible.
Group meetings are a common trait of many recovery programs. But when the pandemic hit, some recovery centers, like Friends of Recovery Delaware Otsego, or FORDO, had to cut back on in-person support.
At the same time, the need for support went up, as those with addiction struggled with isolation and anxiety. The recovery center began to set up ways to work with people remotely, from Zoom group meetings to phone calls.
“Our numbers in person dwindled down to zero because we weren’t even in the building,” said Debra Berrio, Executive Director at FORDO. “But the reach that we made tripled.”
Though the switch was difficult for a lot of people they worked with, FORDO’s staff also noticed that with virtual meetings, there were people seeking help who might not have before.
“I feel like it’s really opening the avenue,”said Kyle LaFever, a Peer Services Coordinator at the center. “To people who have difficulty getting out of the house, or maybe someone who is physically disabled, can’t get transportation, doesn’t feel comfortable leaving the house.”
Berrios added that on top of accessibility and transportation barriers, some who had felt nervous attending in-person meetings in their community could now access support virtually.
“There are some people, for stigma and discrimination, who will not step foot in a recovery center for fear that somebody’s going to know that they’re in trouble,” said Berrios. “The phone is less daunting.”
At FORDO, in-person meetings have been back for six months, but virtual meetings are still in place. For many of the people FORDO works with, the in-person connection is still crucial. Still, Berrios said it might be useful to have both, and that a hybrid of the two might be a model for recovery centers across the country.