Mental health issues increase during pandemic


The Record-Herald



Fayette Recovery Center is reminding the community that treatment for both mental health and substance use problems is available during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“During the early days of the pandemic, Governor DeWine wisely declared mental health and substance abuse treatment as ‘essential services,’” said Jonathan Bennett, executive director of Pickaway Area Recovery Services (PARS). “Many public health experts predicted that the stress of the pandemic and the lockdowns would lead to an increase in mental health issues and drug and alcohol abuse. Their warnings proved to be correct.”

PARS is located in four different counties (Fayette, Pickaway, Fairfield, and Muskingum) and provides different levels of treatment: outpatient, intensive outpatient, and residential. PARS, Inc. has been serving men and women who abuse alcohol and drugs since 1978 by using evidence-based practices of cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, and the Matrix curriculum in its interventions.

It also provides education on early recovery and relapse prevention strategies to help men and women develop confidence in their ability to cope without the use of chemicals.

“The American Medical Association (AMA) recently reported that more than 40 states have seen an increase in opioid related deaths,” said Bennett.

The AMA report went on to say that it is greatly concerned by an increasing number of reports from national, state and local media suggesting increases in opioid- and other drug-related mortality — particularly from illicitly manufactured fentanyl and fentanyl analogs.

The AMA is urging governors and state legislatures to take action, including:

• Adopt SAMHSA and DEA rules and guidance in-full for the duration of the national emergency—this includes flexibility for evaluation and prescribing requirements using telemedicine;

• Support the removal of prior authorization, step therapy and other administrative barriers for medications used to treat opioid use disorder; meaningful enforcement of mental health and substance use disorder parity laws is long overdue;

• Remove existing barriers for patients with pain to obtain necessary medications. This includes removing arbitrary dose, quantity and refill restrictions on controlled substances; and

• Implement and support harm reduction strategies, including removing barriers to sterile needle and syringe services programs.

“Overdoses, fatal and non-fatal, increased significantly during the early days of the pandemic and, while recent data is lacking, we can assume the recent surge will have similar consequences,” said Bennett.

Nationally, suspected overdose submissions to the Overdose Mapping Application Program in 2020 rose by 18% in March, 29% in April, and 42% in May, based on a 30-day rolling mean comparison to these months in 2019, according to an article published on the Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers Coronavirus Resource Center website.

According to an estimate by a report from the Well Being Trust and the American Academy of Family Physicians, the economic recession resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic may lead to a large increase in deaths from drug overdose, alcohol abuse, and suicide in coming years. Depending on the course of the pandemic and response, projections for excess deaths from these causes over the next 10 years range from 27,644 to 154,037, with 75,000 excess deaths being the most likely, according to the article.

“The pandemic has also led to serious mental health issues among all age groups. A recent Gallup poll showed that American mental health is at its worst since they started asking that question in 2001,” said Bennett.

According to Gallup, 76% of U.S. adults rate their mental health positively, representing a 9-point decline from 2019.

“The CDC has reported that juvenile mental health visits to the emergency room have been up over 20% since the pandemic started,” Bennett added.

He went on to say, “There are many reasons for these alarming statistics, but they largely can be attributed to increased stress, fewer opportunities for support (e.g. AA, church, school), and an inability to connect with treatment.

“But, treatment is available during the pandemic. At Fayette Recovery Center, we have both in-person and telehealth services, providing treatment for both mental health and substance use problems. We are taking new clients and advise anyone struggling during this difficult time to call for information or to schedule an appointment.”

Fayette Recovery Center is located at 5 Fayette Center in Washington Court House, and can be reached at 740-335-8228. To contact by email, the address is admin@parsohio.org. The center is open Monday-Thursday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and is closed on Fridays.

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The Record-Herald