COVID creating challenges for substance abuse treatment, help is available

Posted at 1:18 PM, Aug 25, 2020

HELENA — Substance abuse, anxiety and depression has been on the rise across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to CDC data, in June around 40% of adults reported struggles with mental health or substance abuse.

The virus has unfortunately made it difficult for those struggling to find the help they need.

“There’s been a lot of relapsing, a lot of people in crisis, a lot of people going covert on us because they felt ashamed,” said Instar Community Services Director Terri Russell. “The anxiety from the pandemic has been causing a lot of emotional turmoil.”

COVID has presented additional challenges for those needing treatment.

Instar Community Serviceshas been working hard the past six months to ensure people have access to substance abuse and other mental health services during these difficult times.

“We came up with solutions so that we could still meet people in the community where they were at,” explained Behavioral Health Peer Support Specialist Michael Accardi.

Instar is a Substance Use Disorder clinic licensed by the State of Montana Addictive and Mental Disorder Division. They offer assessments/evaluation, outpatient treatment, peer support specialist services, referrals to inpatient treatment, and teach the ACT/Prime for Life classes.

The clinic has deployed telehealth, zoom meetings and phone meetings to provide care to their clients. Instar also revived grants from the State of Montana and PacificSource to adapt their treatments to COVID.

Addiction often affects multiple aspects of a person’s life. There can be family issues, financial crisis and people can lose their driver’s license.

Many of Instar’s patients depend on public transportation to get treatment and other basic needs. But for months, the busses in Helena were unable to run due to the pandemic.

Instar has been driving people to Food Share, their pharmacy, job interviews, recovery centers and other needs to help people overcome that barrier.

“The message we want to send out there is addiction and mental health is something that you will probably have to deal with your entire life, and we want people to find the healthy solution to that,” said Accardi.

Accardi knows the struggles of addiction all too well. He’s lived it firsthand, and wants people to know that there is hope.

“I have a passion for helping those in recovery because the one thing I do know is that recovery is possible for anyone. Regardless of what trauma it is, regardless of the addiction, regardless of the mental health needs recovery; recovery is possible for all people,” said Accardi.

Instar has been servicing hundreds of patients during the pandemic. Even with the struggles and challenges COVID has brought, they continue to see success stories weekly.

“The successes might not be what people think. A lot of times it’s as simple as getting that job, getting transportation, making it into the court system and working through the process, going back to school or finding housing,” said Accardi.

Long after the pandemic is over, people will still face the challenges of substance abuse and mental health.

But as long as their doors are open, Instar will be there to help people overcome those challenges and find a path forward. They may not always be the right place for a person or family, but they can help connect people with the resources they need.

“There is such a great collaboration happening in Helena and we all work together,” said Russell.

Instarregularly works with Our Place Drop-in Center, Good Samaritan Ministries, Salvation Army, Lewis and Clark Public Health, PureView, Helena Indian Alliance, Helena Valley Addiction Services, One Recovery and more.

Russell urges those that are facing substance abuse or mental health challenges to reach out for help.

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