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Residential treatment is an essential service

Below, Odyssey House President Dr. Peter Provet comments on an article in the New York Times about the pandemic’s impact on the opioid epidemic.

“‘The Drug Became His Friend’: Pandemic Drives Hike in Opioid Deaths” (News, Sept 29), underscores the essential role residential treatment plays in saving lives and the tragic consequences of underfunding such essential services.

During the height of the pandemic in New York City, at Odyssey House, we were concerned about the impact of the rapidly spreading COVID-19 virus on clients and staff in our residential treatment and housing programs. We quickly implemented infection control procedures, provided masks, encouraged physical distancing, increased sanitizing measures, limited new admissions, and truncated group activities; all the while working closely with government partners.

It was a challenge, but it worked to keep the virus in check for staff and clients alike. A typically stigmatized population of people with substance misuse disorders and mental illnesses came together to embrace necessary changes, accepted difficult restrictions, and fought through social isolation.

Nearly 72,000 Americans died from drug overdoses last year – an increase of 5 percent from 2018 – and it looks like 2020 will be even higher. While the deaths and suffering from COVID-19 are already staggering, we must not let addiction, a disease that thrives on isolation, add to this toll. Our experience compared to those profiled in this article emphasizes the continuing need for residential treatment and ongoing community support.

Peter Provet, Ph.D.
President and CEO
Odyssey House

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