Opioids

File/(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in more cases by the day being officially confirmed by Delaware public health officials.

Another public health challenge, meanwhile, continues to take lives. The state's website Sunday indicated that 81 deaths in Delaware in 2020 had already been attributed to suspected overdose.

Organizations that try to help Delawareans in treatment and recovery for substance abuse disorder are feeling the strain as they adjust to social distancing measures, implement new cleanliness procedures - and continue trying to save lives.

Gaudenzia operates residential facilities in Delaware and an outpatient center. It has had to virtually eliminate visitor hours in favor of phone and videoconferencing with loved ones.

"We're conducting groups in smaller sessions. To the extent possible, we're encouraging as much social distancing as possible in our facilities," Gaudenzia Delaware Division Director Kim Jones. "Of course, we're taking universal precautions and sanitizing and disinfecting our facilities top to bottom."

The adjustment can be even more challenging at facilities which dispense medication-assisted treatment methods such as methadone. Even before the COVID-19 crisis, people in treatment would frequently gather in crowds before the doors opened.

"We have people outside who are explaining to folks how to keep a distance, why to keep a distance and exactly what's going on," Connections Community Support Programs Communications and Community Relations Director Terry Buchanan said.

On the inside? Buchanan said because of special cleaning and sanitation measures "our employees are taking that much more time and that many more steps to make sure they're prepared not only to see everyone but see everyone safely."

Care providers, according to Buchanan, wear gowns, gloves and masks. Their temperatures are taken every day.

Other providers of substance use disorder treatment, including SUN Behavioral and aTTAcK addiction also said they are open for business, as they face a situation that may force them to make daily adjustments.

It's all new. It's all ever-changing. It's disorienting to people who are in substance use disorder treatment.

It's for them, Buchanan said, that they do what they do.

"We are there, and we're committed to them."

(For addiction-related resources and treatment, visit www.helpisherede.com )

Reporter - Anchor

Mark Fowser is a veteran journalist in Delaware.