Everyone has had to adjust to life while facing the threat of COVID-19. While this health crisis rages on, so does the war against the opioid crisis. Some treatment centers have had to stop taking new patients in order to help flatten the curve of spread. So how are addicted persons getting help with medication-assisted treatment during such an isolating time?

Allegra Schorr, president of the Coalition of Medication-Assisted Treatment Providers and Advocates of New York State, spoke with Modern Healthcare website about the challenges MAT providers and patients are facing.  “The reality is, the opioid crisis has not gone anywhere,” she told them. “These two crises crashing into each other is a big fear.

Giving Help and Monitoring Virtually

Many treatment centers, especially those who provide medication-assisted treatment, must interact with clients regularly to assess their needs. People who take methadone are closely monitored.

One of these treatment centers, SBH Health System, has found ways to try to meet the demand while still monitoring clients closely. The healthcare provider works with more than 600 patients who are prescribed methadone, Suboxone or a Vivitrol injection.

For now, they are staggering in-person visits which means clients must show up promptly to receive their doses or worry about missing their time slot. Much of the counseling must be done online via telemedicine.

COVID-19 Adds Risks for Substance Use Disorders

Medication-assisted treatment providers say they are increasing the number of extended dosages for their patients, but they still must monitor for drug use and assess the risks of overdose, especially when their clients now have more medication in their systems in some cases, or are self-administering medications at home.

Now, MAT providers must also be on the lookout for COVID-19 symptoms. Experts say that COVID-19 complications are a danger for people who are prescribed opioids, such as Suboxone, which can slow a client’s breathing.

People at-risk most for COVID-19 in the addiction community are those who are newly sober. They may feel overwhelmed or even may relapse, making it difficult or nearly impossible to get back to a facility that can help them achieve sobriety due to tightening public health regulations.