The Effects of C-19 on Drug and Alcohol Treatment

The addiction epidemic was already a massive problem throughout the United States.  Unfortunately, 2020 has only made the problem worse. COVID-19 swept across the globe sending people into a panic and forcing them into their homes. The effects of the coronavirus were far more than physical, though. High levels of stress often lead people to seek relief through alcohol and substance use. Battling against the widespread addiction epidemic on its own is difficult enough. It’s only gotten worse with the ongoing spread of coronavirus. We decided to invite a couple of professionals that work in the field of addiction treatment to share their experience with fighting two epidemics at once.

Transcript

Rich Hession:
Thanks, Kev. Hi, everybody. My name is Richie H. and welcome to The Other Side, or podcast at BlueCrest. And I’ve got an esteemed panel of guests with me here today. And I’ll start down on the corner with Dawn Belamarich. Dawn is an LPC, LCADC, and ACS. She’s also a lot of letters. She’s the CEO at RCA Lighthouse and that’s in Mays Landing. Hello, Dawn.
Dawn Belamarich:
Thank you.
Rich Hession:
And then we’ve got Mike Karl, senior vice president at Delphi Behavioral Health, a.k.a. Serenity at Summit for anybody who knows the field. Mike is an MHS and an LCADC. And then I’ve got our friend to my left, Julie Reardon. Julia is an LPC, an LCADC, ACS, NCC. She has a private practice here in Wayne, New Jersey. She also does crisis intervention and peer recovery at a local hospital. I guess I should introduce myself for anybody who’s not seen our podcast. I’m Richie Hession. I’m the CEO at BlueCrest Recovery Center. And thanks everybody for coming.
Mike Karl:
Good to be here.
Julie Reardon:
Thank you.
Dawn Belamarich:
Thank you.
Rich Hession:
So today’s topic for today’s podcast, very relevant, is COVID. COVID-19 and the effects on our field and the effects on us, the effects on our clients, effects on their families. The effects have been in every walk of life. The effects have been astronomical, COVID-19 and everything that it’s represented to us, societally and specifically to our field, it’s been unbelievable and far reaching. And so, as we were joking beforehand, we could each talk an hour and a half and not even come close to touching the effects that COVID has had on us each personally, on our respective places of work. On the clients and families that we’ve dealt with.
So we’re going to kind of hit on a few different things. I’m going to kind of pop around, anybody who’s watching, we can be found on Facebook, SoundCloud, YouTube, Spotify. And if you want to ask any questions, because we are live you can sign into your YouTube account using your Gmail, and you can fire out questions. And Nick, our right-hand man, Nick Tomorrow, Nick, yell hi to everybody.
Nick:
Hello.
Rich Hession:
Hello. Nick will yell out any questions he has. He’ll say, “Hey, Rich, we have a question.” So to set the stage for this particular podcast, we usually, I usually set the stage for kind of what it’s going to look like. And for us it’s usually education. We usually do these thinking about, perhaps people could learn something about whatever the topic is, and we go at it from that perspective. And not that you couldn’t learn anything about this today, but really you learn more about what we’ve kind of been going through.
I was jokingly saying that it’s more like a commiseration podcast taping, but I think if I had to gear this towards somebody to show this podcast to, it would be to policymakers, politicians, local health departments in the country for what the effects have been on us, in the treatment world and on the clients. And what we have to deal with day in and day out, which is why I have these folks who can speak to personal experience. So we’re going to do stream of consciousness, right? I don’t have a list of 500 questions that I’m going to ask you guys. I want your experience. We don’t have scripts where we’re going to speak, for real, we’re going to talk to you about our personal experiences and what we’ve dealt with and what we’ve seen. Dawn, I’m going to kick it off with you down at RCA, detox, res, level of care. That’s a detoxification and residential treatment.
And why don’t you, if each of you, when you kick on yours, she’s going to kind of talk about detox, res, so she’ll explain it for you, your private client stuff. Kind of just a brief for people who’ve not don’t know, right? Because there’s some people might not even know our field. Just a quick, what does that look like, detox, res, what does that mean? What does that usually represent for a typical client when they would come along and stay and all that? And then tell us, COVID, how it’s wreak havoc in your world in the last year and a half now?
Dawn Belamarich:
Sure. So as you pointed out, RCA Lighthouse is 133 bed facility, Mays Landing, New Jersey. We offer every level of care. I’ll let you touch on the IOP and partial care and things of that nature. But for me, specifically detox and residential level of care. So detox typically five to 10 days, really a medically monitored opportunity for patients who are struggling with certain substances that come in and really have that nursing and medical oversight to be able to safely withdraw and manage their detox process. Residential treatment is just an extension of that, right? We really want our patients to complete a full 30 to 40 day program. Helping them stabilize before they set off into the other levels of care that you’re going to hear about.
So, I’ve been at RCA Lighthouse for almost five years, starting as the clinical director and then progressing to CEO in the last year and a half. And COVID made things very interesting, as it did for all of us. We are dealing with a drug, an epidemic really globally that we’ve been dealing with for some time and then add into the mix a global pandemic. And really, I think the word that I would use is pivot. What we’ve had to do pretty exceptionally and almost every single day is pivot in how we provide treatment. Is making sure that we’re safely testing our patients and adhering to protocols while they’re there, but that we’re not minimizing their substance use disorder while they’re in the facility.
I think, when a pandemic happens and it’s the first one any of us have lived through and God willing, the last one, you learn really quickly that there’s going to be some factors that are going to potentially get in the way of how you deliver your standard service. So as a treatment provider, especially in the level of cares I’m in, I would say, pivoting every day to make sure that we were prioritizing the disease of addiction while keeping our patients safe from the pandemic.
Rich Hession:
And if I could, I just want to throw it in there again for everybody to really kind of give that some context is, she’s talking about prioritizing the addiction, 93,331 people died in 2020 of overdose deaths alone. That’s just overdose deaths. That’s that doesn’t come close to touching all the other alcohol and drug related deaths that happened every year-
Dawn Belamarich:
Right, suicide.
Rich Hession:
… in the United States, hundreds of thousands of people every year. And we’ve been dealing with that year in and year out forever.
Dawn Belamarich:
Right.
Rich Hession:
And now along comes the COVID pandemic and the COVID pandemic, and you guys could speak, you would think that it might affect our people a little bit more, because we’re usually kind of headed, we’re usually on the edge of that sickness and the unhealthy lifestyle that comes with addiction alcoholism. But I don’t know that it specifically it’s really more towards people with auto-immune, the elderly people with other kinds of diseases, not necessarily addiction per se. So the danger for us remained the entire time are addiction.
Dawn Belamarich:
Right. And I think that was the number one thing I saw very early on. Was we had an opportunity to either allow something to take, and it very important, keeping our patients safe and the health and welfare of everyone. But we had an opportunity to really make sure that the substance use disorder was still at the forefront of what we were treating and what we cared about. And I could speak for a lot of our partners, everyone at this table certainly, the way we handled it was great. We really took a second to pivot again, to stay to ourselves. What do we need to do to make sure that 93,000 more people don’t die because we’re paying attention to this over here.
And I think as a detox residential provider where our patients are staying in house with us, it’s more challenging than ever. Because all these things are on the news. All of these requirements are coming out. Our patients and their loved ones are seeing all of these very scary things. And it’s challenging. I think the responsibility we had as providers was to make sure that we didn’t forget about the disease of addiction, which is one that we’ve been fighting for decades as providers now, and centuries, forever, since the dawn of time as a society. Is that making sure that that stays at the forefront. And I think it’s a task we’re still going to be required to have to look at and see what we do moving forward.
Rich Hession:
Did you guys have staffing problems as a result of COVID? People who were told that they had to quarantine? I mean, your staff has to come to work. You can’t just leave 133 clients unstaffed [crosstalk 00:20:37]. People have to be staffed, but according to what the government and the health department had laid out, if you’re even around someone with COVID-19 that you have to quarantine. I’m talking pre-vaccine, early days is a little different than post-vaccine. The rules have changed along the way. It was no masks, then it was masks. There was no vaccine, now there is a vaccine. Obviously it’s been changed, but in the beginning, I remember, and you tell me if it was your experience as well. In the beginning staffing was a big, scary point, because if people were required to quarantine and you happen to get unlucky enough to have a bunch of staff that was around somebody, how did you guys manage that?
Dawn Belamarich:
So you learn a lot of things quickly, knock on wood, because I don’t know what the future brings, but I would say at Lighthouse we were very fortunate to not experience any staffing issues that truly got in the way of patient care. Reason being is because we really prioritize cross training in the beginning of this whole thing. So if you are a human being with a pulse in the building, working there, you knew how to do various disciplines. You could run a group, you could do an emission, you could run a primary, anything that you’re able to do that was going to help our patients get well. And I think it helped us when we could have potentially experienced staffing problems, not run into a major issue. Outside of that, I’m not going to lie, we experienced the same struggles that everybody else did.
There’s contact tracing that your county requires. There’s things your state require. That can make it challenging for you to staff your building at all times with the patients that need addiction treatment. So, it was a day-by-day, I think at some point for me as a leader in this space, I kind of just relinquished knowing what’s going to happen next week. Like forever in a day, one day at a time. I’m going to wake up, I’m going to come in today, and whatever I have to deal with today is what I’m going to deal with. And we figured it out. But that is not, I know that that’s not the experience of every inpatient facility. And like I said, I think having five years with a lot of the same team created a culture where they bought in, they’re going to show up, we’re going to do it together. And fortunately we were able to provide our patients with similar care, and the standards that we’ve come to be known for. But it’s hard.
Rich Hession:
Did you find that COVID created a lot? I mean, I know you did, but I’m asking it as a precursor to a question, but I’m sure you found that COVID created a lot of fear and chaos, right?
Dawn Belamarich:
I think that was the number one thing. Outside of the staffing, when you talk about staffing issues, the number one thing was the support we provided. So it’s one thing to have people that don’t want to show up. It’s another one that have people that show up that are constantly scared of what’s next.
Rich Hession:
Sure.
Dawn Belamarich:
There’s TVs all over the building. They’re going home and they’re being immersed in social media. And this is what’s going on in your state and your county. And there’s this variant, and-
Rich Hession:
The news, channels had death, current death counts-
Dawn Belamarich:
Yeah, and every second, it was like the red ticker-
Rich Hession:
… on everything, in hospital counts and all it’s death everywhere. That’s death everywhere. And it’s just absolutely brutal.
Dawn Belamarich:
Scary.
Rich Hession:
Now that’s, and that goes on both sides. It’s not just your staff, but it’s your patients as well, right?
Dawn Belamarich:
I think the part for that was really important was how do we provide the support for our team? Because this is what they’re seeing. I can’t prevent that. I can’t move into their homes and see what they’re scrolling on social media, right? But every day being like, “Listen, trust me, we’re good. We got this.” And creating that culture inside that trickled down to the patients. Our patients are struggling with things that are inevitably going to kill them if we don’t help them take care of it. The last thing I wanted was additional fear to get in the way of that.
Rich Hession:
I’d love to say, Mike, I’ll go to you on this too, because I know you saw it, but I’d love to say that, I wouldn’t love to say, but I’d be tempted to say that a lot of clients used it as an excuse. We deal with that every day, people come into treatment and we deal with people who have built an excuse, “I can’t stay, I got to get my life back. I got to go all,” counter to what the reality is, which is if you really want your life back, you’ll give up the next 90 days so you can have the next 40 years, but that’s a different argument.
Dawn Belamarich:
Not using logic.
Rich Hession:
But now these folks are coming in and they have built in reasons and excuses, “Oh this COVID, all these people are dying. I got to get home, blah, blah, blah.” And so it became all that much more. Mike, you can speak to it, did it become all that much more difficult to ACA block, which is leaning against clinical advice? But did it become more difficult for you guys to manage the clientele that was there?
Mike Karl:
It did. And going back to what Dawn was talking about just the employees, managing their anxiety and fears with the news channels creating it daily. But keeping them in place. We had several staff members that were seriously ill early on. I remembered, the pivotal point for me, it was, I think it was February, was right before this got bad. Our medical director who’s of African descent and worked with the World Health Organization looked at me and said, “You know 2020 is over, right?” And I was like, “Ah, come on,” my practitioner, big group, I will go nameless said, “Oh, this’ll blow through in a few weeks.” And here’s the guy running the detox facility saying, “This is going to be a huge impact. You have no idea.” Because he had seen it in Africa, and it was coming this way.
But we found challenges in every aspect, especially maintaining client contact and with the ACA blocking and maintaining the families. I mean, we found it extremely difficult working with the families because of that disconnection that was caused by, we couldn’t have family groups. I don’t know if you guys had family groups, but we didn’t have.
Dawn Belamarich:
Virtual.
Mike Karl:
Huge deal, huge deal.
Rich Hession:
Cornerstone of our program.
Mike Karl:
So, you’re talking about the treatment that’s based in accountability and client accountability, unable to use those collaterals that we normally use.
Dawn Belamarich:
Right.
Mike Karl:
Right. And staff not going out of their way to endanger themselves, but trying to motivate them to continue the pursuit. I mean, they give it all, but at the same time managing them to do their job the way they did 12 months earlier was very difficult.
Rich Hession:
Now in residential care, usually I don’t know. Do you do visitations in residential care? Pre-COVID, do you guys allow for visitations in residential?
Mike Karl:
We did, detox was basically blackout-
Rich Hession:
Of course.
Mike Karl:
… but residential, we’re just starting the family program over again.
Rich Hession:
But you typically have always had where families come in-
Mike Karl:
Correct.
Rich Hession:
… and it’s a big, that’s what you’re talking about. PHP level of care.
Mike Karl:
You would have it.
Rich Hession:
[crosstalk 00:27:01] downstream does. It’s a cornerstone of what we do.
Mike Karl:
It’s crucial.
Rich Hession:
Family involvement is everything.
Dawn Belamarich:
Right.
Rich Hession:
It’s our biggest night, right at BlueCrest. Our biggest night is Wednesdays. Wednesday night is awesome. We bring all the existing clients in. We bring alumni, we bring all the families for family group. We have food. Everybody comes in, they do multi-family groups. They have a big speaker come in at 7:30 that does an hour, usually a rockstar speaker. The families get to sit with their family members and hear a kick-ass speaker who’s had a real 12-step experience, which is like we’re big fans of. To see them all get together in that way, to see the hope, that building was on fire every Wednesday. I used to look forward to every Wednesday night. Gone in an instant, gone.
Mike Karl:
I’ll tell an anecdote that one of my first clients, early on I was working with Charlie Stuckey and the family, dropped them off to me at 40 and said, I’ll never forget this moment. He had said, “We want nothing to do with him. He’s yours. I don’t want to talk to him for a year.” And I remember giving him his 90 day pen at a meeting, he asked me, and everyone of his family in the back room, in the back of that room cramming to get a view, and his mother.
Dawn Belamarich:
Love it.
Mike Karl:
Right. I mean, that’s it.
Dawn Belamarich:
That’s the hope.
Mike Karl:
The restoring of that family connection is everything and COVID isolated them. And I felt sorry for them too.
Rich Hession:
Sure.
Mike Karl:
Because they were at home or sometimes beyond what they should have been. And they should have been in a facility and they’d take hostages, not family members.
Rich Hession:
And this is kind of a cool segue to Julie because, and I know you deal with all different aspects, right? And so, I’m sure your private client side, you see people of all [inaudible 00:28:34], because you don’t only deal with addiction, you have all sorts of. But I would ask you from your experience on the client side, to what Mike was speaking about and from what we saw, now there’s total isolation. Addiction is already a disease of isolation, but now the families, which for us family members watching, I think family members are affected worse than the addicts and alcoholics themselves. I think it’s harder on family than it is on us. Meaning as somebody who’s in recovery, a former addict, alcoholic, but the family, the struggles the families go through. Did you see a lot more of that? Did you see a lot more on the private client side and from your colleagues? What did that look like on your guys’ end?
Julie Reardon:
So for me, I’m associated with the treatment center in another state through their family group because it went virtual. So that treatment center took their family group and they went virtual. So the director of alumni and family programming, he developed that virtual platform for the families and asked me to be a part of that. So I guess right after COVID, maybe April or May, maybe even earlier than that, they started doing their family group virtually. And they’ve had up to 30 family members attend that group. And funny you say Wednesday, because it was Wednesdays. So that’s one part that I saw. So that treatment center kept their family group going virtually, and it was well attended. For me with my private clients I recognize the Al-Anon and Families Anonymous went virtual. And so did AA and all of the A-programs. But that’s where I sent people, Families Anonymous I can’t say enough about, it helps families tremendously. Al-Anon does as well. So the-
Rich Hession:
If you can educate me, and I’m sure other people, Al-Anon I know, that’s family. What is Families Anonymous? I don’t know that I’m familiar with it.
Julie Reardon:
Family’s Anonymous-
Rich Hession:
Hold on, are you familiar with Family’s Anonymous?
Mike Karl:
I’m very much.
Rich Hession:
Are you?
Dawn Belamarich:
I am, yeah.
Rich Hession:
Damn you both, God.
Mike Karl:
I love it. They’re a little more hands-on.
Rich Hession:
I should know this. It’s kind of aggravating.
Julie Reardon:
So Families Anonymous, their meetings are about two hours long. So the first hour, everybody signs in, the first hour they go over a step. And then I guess the more seasoned individuals will talk about the step and their experience. And then the second half is when you sign in, you ask if you want to speak. And then the leader of that meeting will kind of say, “Okay, Dawn, you said you wanted to talk about what’s going on.” And then you have a platform to share the pain that you’re going through. And it’s not only the pain too, was some of the families that have success, because the other families need to know that there is successful recovery for themselves as well as their loved ones.
Rich Hession:
Is it specific to addiction, or mental health as well?
Julie Reardon:
Addiction.
Rich Hession:
Addiction. Straight addiction. Okay.
Julie Reardon:
Well behavioral. But behavioral because of addiction.
Rich Hession:
Yeah, fair enough. Addiction first and then co-occurring second kind of thing.
Julie Reardon:
Yeah, lots of parents, some siblings, some other relatives, but it’s-
Mike Karl:
Mostly parents.
Julie Reardon:
… mostly parents and it’s just an amazing, amazing recovery program. I can’t say enough about it. So check it out, familiesanonymous.org.
Rich Hession:
No doubt.
Julie Reardon:
I have nothing to do with it, but.
Rich Hession:
So to that, you brought up virtual and I’m kind of curious what your experience was. We did the same thing. Obviously we rolled with it and we went virtual with the family night. And at first there was that pause in between when no one knew what the hell to do, we were still trying to figure out treatment, nevermind family groups. That was almost, it’s an aside, it’s the most important thing, and yet it becomes an aside when it comes to just the actual treatment and figuring out. Keeping in mind, when COVID hit all the rules changed. Everything started off and nobody knew what to do and all of a sudden they’re announcing mandatory two quarantines. And then, but you weren’t allowed to do telehealth from our perspective. So if we’re supposed to quarantine and we’re not allowed to do telehealth in addiction and you’re not allowed to go into the sober homes because there’s rules in New Jersey, then what are we supposed to do?
You can’t send out a tone. You can’t say, “All right, everybody time out. Unfortunately, COVID.” COVID doesn’t trump us. They think it trumps us, but they’re wrong. Because we already knew that we’re going to have 2,000, 200,000 plus deaths last year, more than that probably. 70,000 overdose alone, 93 000, 70 the year before. And in this high 60s the year before that two years in a row, but that’s just overdose deaths. That’s not all the other deaths put inside, so we don’t get to do a timeout. So for us, we knew that we’re going to have to deal with that from jump street.
Anyway, I really want to stick with the virtual part versus the real, the live treatment. Because we rolled with it and we did, and we eventually did get into that and we set up virtual and then thank God, the insurance companies, all the policies, folks, your policies have to align so the insurance companies are able to pay for people to be able to do that virtual treatment, and so the places can stay open, right? And so the health department and with your state and the federal government and the insurance company policies, all have to align. And when those things are out of line, which really they are right now, I don’t know if anybody knows that, but in our level of care that’s all misaligned. All the insurance companies are starting to do away with telehealth options.
They’ve taken away mask mandates, but they’re still requiring seven day with a test quarantines if you’ve been around someone with COVID. So you have to lock down for seven days and you’re not allowed to bring treatment then into whatever sober home, whatever place that they’re at, and telehealth is no longer an option to be able to provide them treatment. What are they supposed to do?
So how do you manage something like that? Deftly. But even without the alignment of policies and the ability to do that, even when the policies were lined, when it comes to virtual, I’ve found, and I would love all three of you take on it for whatever experience you’ve had with the virtual. I’ve found that, and for you doing private client stuff, seeing people when you’re a clinician, and all three of you are well clinicald, well credentialed, you guys, there’s not just spoken language, there’s body language. There’s sitting across from someone and being able to see all of them is the most effective way for you to communicate and see what’s actually going on. A lot of times their body languages say more than what they’re actually telling you. That’s gone now, right now all of a sudden you’ve got to fit to a large degree, or you seem to disagree. I’d love to hear that you think virtual is as effective as live. Tell me how’s that the case?
Julie Reardon:
So, for my private practice right now, I’m a 100% virtual. I personally don’t have any difficulties with looking at body someone’s body language, determining what they’re saying is not what they’re saying. So I really don’t have a problem with it. I had very few clients who have a problem with it. And it’s really the younger, some of the younger people in recovery would have liked to be in person. But for me, I haven’t had any difficulties with any of my private practice clients with virtual. I kind of like it.
Rich Hession:
Oh, that’s interesting. And what about you guys?
Dawn Belamarich:
I mean, I can just say for me, we are doing a lot of virtual specifically in our outpatient level of care, and we’re doing all of our family visitation on the weekends virtually. So one of the pluses that came out of COVID was this ability to still do these family visitations in a way where they don’t come maybe to the facility, and in a residential level of care sometimes that’s a bonus, because there’s no mixing and mingling. So, I mean, it was a bonus, but I think I agree to your point. In some extent is where there’s so many positives, but for the patient who benefits from that. There are a lot of patients I’ve seen that just need the accountability of showing up. They need the ownership of seeing a person every week and saying, “I came to the facility and saw Dawn, met with Dawn,” as compared to logging onto their phone where they’re not as accountable.
Rich Hession:
Well, and so we could differentiate the levels of care as well, which I wasn’t really doing. But on the private client side, they’re kind of signing up that with a different mentality than say someone at IOP. At IOP, what we dealt with a lot of, which you wouldn’t deal with a lot of is people signing on and then they put the screen up so you can’t see their face. And you’re like, “Dude, where are you? We can’t count you as part of this group. Where are you?” And maybe it just goes to their initial and now you’re calling them saying, “Dude, you got to get on group. You got to get on group.”
Dawn Belamarich:
And I think that that’s why a lot of … And we’re exploring this, like RCA as a company as well, right? It’s such a tremendous asset for the patient who’s ready and there. And who has these other barriers, for the patients that need to physically be present for that accountability, because they’re early in recovery or there are significant stressors at home, or wherever their safe environment is. The face-to-face is still the value add. It’s still the same thing as it’s always been, which is rapport and relationship and seeing body language and someone being able to come in and say, “This was my experience. I met with Dawn. I got her vibe, her whole aura. I was with her.” But you know, in the private practice side I see it as well. A weekly session is a great way to stay in touch with your therapist and not have to drive 25 minutes. And to still get the experience and work on treatment goals and continue to make progress, because that patient is appropriate for that setting.
I just think it is the old school, like kind of different strokes for different folks. It’s like where you’re at and what is going to help you get to the goal line, which is long-term recovery. And it’s not the same platform for everyone.
Julie Reardon:
Right. I’ve also found that I see clients from all over New Jersey that weren’t able to find a therapist, no one was in there, available to them. And so maybe I was down the list a little bit, but I was available. And so that I think, the availability part of that as well, for me it worked.
Dawn Belamarich:
Yep.
Rich Hession:
So but for the higher level of care for outpatient and intensive outpatient they’re starting to discontinue the allowance of telehealth for that. Private client they’ve always allowed for that to a degree. Or at least since things have become more technologically advanced. But for our level of care, they’ve continuing to do that where more people, and to that end, where it’s available to more people that might not have sought it out previously. There’s also a lot more people right now that have been affected because of COVID.
Dawn Belamarich:
Right.
Rich Hession:
That would never have been affected before, like-
Dawn Belamarich:
Agree.
Rich Hession:
… the cops and teachers and everyone basically.
Dawn Belamarich:
Older adults.
Rich Hession:
But all this stress and all this chaos with people were working from home, they’re drinking more, they’re doing more drugs there to numb the fear, the constant death toll on CNN and blah, blah, blah. We’ve seen people coming in, reaching out for treatment that have crossed the line that might not have crossed the line-
Dawn Belamarich:
Agree.
Rich Hession:
… up until this point.
Dawn Belamarich:
Agree.
Rich Hession:
Have you guys seen that as well on your end?
Mike Karl:
We have, I’ve seen more and more acuity, especially mental health on our admissions coming in to detox from year over year. People just much more anxiety depression disorder than the year before. And I don’t think we’re seeing a different population. We’re seeing the same population, just with more acuity. And again, it’s that if the fear is rooted, anxiety, fear, and isolation, we got plenty of that last year. As far as telehealth I’d like to just, I think as you said, it’s up to the provider, thy in itself be true if it’s working. But it’s up to us as providers if it’s part of the ongoing landscape to make sure it is effective and how we do that.
Dawn Belamarich:
Absolutely.
Mike Karl:
And our ILPs have been in a bit of a hybrid, a little bit of both. It also help us with those shifting and different work schedules. Geographically they’re a little further. I said, I’ve been in some self-help meetings, there are people all over the country.
Dawn Belamarich:
Right.
Mike Karl:
I mean, it’s brought people together as well, but I think, I actually think, I know the payers are pulling back, but I think it’s part of our landscape for a while to some degree. And I think it’ll come back. I think there’ll be push back here if, I think they are going to have to.
Rich Hession:
Maybe a little chaos in between. I mean, again, and I’m speaking from which I want everybody here to do all these every time we have these, that’s why I love doing them. You put it out on the table and I speak from my experience and I speak my mind. I don’t, niceties have never stopped me before.
Dawn Belamarich:
I know that, niceties.
Rich Hession:
And so I’ll just tell you that for me, I’m a recovery guy, so I do 12-step fellowship on the outside, and they’ve all gone Zoom. They had to, the church has shut us down. Can you pass one of those waters? And I think the one on the end is for Julie, in case she wants some cool ones.
Julie Reardon:
Thank you very much.
Rich Hession:
So for me doing the 12-step stuff, it was great. I don’t have to leave my house. I can literally, and most of us sit in our underwear because you only see my face, or I put it on my higher [inaudible 00:42:01], I’ve gone to meetings all over the world and it’s pretty cool. It does not replace live meetings, period. You can disagree with me. And if you do, you’re wrong as far as I’m concerned. No, other people will disagree with me. And I’ve had these conversations with people like, “You’re wrong. I love doing a virtual and I don’t even want to go back to live.” I don’t agree. I don’t agree at all. Because there’s magic that happens with human beings when we get together, that communal sense of being with one. And I’ve worked with hundreds of people personally and the kitchen table at a 12-step program. And for me, virtual, I won’t sponsor somebody long distance because we need to be able to commune and we need to be able to be together.
I will say the same thing goes for, as a temporary thing it’s been great, from a business perspective I get it. Everyone, most of the companies are like, “Listen, for business perspective, it’s easy. It’s simple to maintain. I can have a bunch of people on there. It’s easy to do. The clinicians can just show up. They do the thing, you sign off. It’s simple, it’s clean, it’s easy.” I don’t do simple, clean and easy. I want it to be dirty and difficult and effective. And so I’m not saying it has no effect or it’s not effective at all, and everyone’s experiences are different. And it sounds like Julie has really adapted well to doing those kinds of sessions in the way she carries them out. For IOP level of care, PHP, IOP, and to maybe a little less serve extent OP. But I think it’s totally necessary.
Dawn Belamarich:
Yeah.
Rich Hession:
For me.
Mike Karl:
At a minimum, some contact in that accountability. But I think it’s also knowing the client.
Rich Hession:
Sure.
Mike Karl:
Dawn said it earlier, “Where is this, meeting this client where they’re at, not where we’re at as providers.”
Dawn Belamarich:
Where we want them to be at.
Mike Karl:
Yeah, where we want … If there’s 10 to 15% of the population in a country of 300 million, that’s 50 million people.
Rich Hession:
Sure.
Mike Karl:
I mean, not everyone has the insight, the motivation or anything to be able to do it virtually.
Julie Reardon:
Or technology knowledge.
Mike Karl:
Well, that’s a big problem as well.
Rich Hession:
We’ve all read the story of the guy who, sent away for a big book early on in the Himalayas or wherever he was, and he did well that way. That is the outlier of this disease. Most people don’t want to be here. But to Julie’s point, more rural communities don’t get the benefit that the bigger cities-
Dawn Belamarich:
The amount of patients that get treatment now.
Rich Hession:
But think about rural communities that don’t have great internet signals. Quite frankly, if you’re talking about technology-
Mike Karl:
That’s a big issue.
Rich Hession:
There’s a lot of rural areas that don’t have great internet signals that have a hard time. For as many additional people that’s helped, it’s probably cut off that much more that you don’t consider that you don’t think about, which is the point of the podcast.
It’s the effects that COVID have had, and you were right. You said it’s the law of unintended consequences. And so there have been some positive effects from all of this with COVID, and I’ll speak to one of the 12 step fellowships. I just found out this the other day, one of the 12 step fellowships who had been struggling financially, you would have thought they would have been in the tank right now because of everything that gone on, they’ve gotten more money than ever they have before in history. Because people were no longer paying rent, out of the churches they were doing it all on Zoom, all the money [crosstalk 00:45:01].
Mike Karl:
That was 90% of the expense.
Rich Hession:
Holy cow. So they ended up doing much better than you would have thought they would have done. And again, a lot of people raved about the online meetings and such, right? So that’s really been a fantastic.
Mike Karl:
But if you’re early on, that would be-
Rich Hession:
Forget about it.
Mike Karl:
Forget about it.
Rich Hession:
You know, there’s people who’ve come and they’re celebrating a year and they’ve never been to a live meeting.
Dawn Belamarich:
Physical meeting.
Julie Reardon:
I had a client like that.
Mike Karl:
That’s amazing.
Rich Hession:
That’s crazy stuff.
Mike Karl:
That’s amazing.
Rich Hession:
That’s crazy stuff, it really is. So I get that there’s been some positive effects on some of it, and it has made things for many people more accessible and then in other circumstances it made it less.
Dawn Belamarich:
I think if we always, because one of the things I try to focus on early on is, as an organization we use telehealth and we use face-to-face. I oversee a residential program, so the patients are there. You can’t lose that fellowship, that connection, that one person who said something that was the light bulb that sticks with you for the rest of your life. But you’re right. There’s a piece where it’s like, “Okay, we just open up this whole new world.” And it’s embracing the fact that if we stay focused on the why, which is helping people for their long-term recovery, that’s the, why in my head. That I’m going to align them with the platform, face-to-face, virtual, whatever it is, that’s going to help them get to the promised land.
It works, because you’re right. There are people accessing treatment and I’m seeing much higher acuity in older adult population without a doubt, that have never accessed treatment before. And if they’re going to do it via their Verizon wifi, have at it. Saddle up, I’m here for it. But like it’s also, we have to be the owners of knowing that we are aligning our patients with the best platform for their long-term recovery. Not for what we want it to look like, but what is going to get them there? I think we have that responsibility.
Rich Hession:
Yeah, I guess time is going to prove it out.
Dawn Belamarich:
Yeah.
Rich Hession:
You know, what’s effective. Can you really tell me that in a year, in a one-year swatch-
Dawn Belamarich:
We need more data than that.
Rich Hession:
… it’s not a big enough data set. It’s not a big enough data set, it’s just not.
Mike Karl:
I think the impact that COVID will be here for years, decades-
Rich Hession:
A decade, at least I would say, yeah. I’d say you’re right, in ways that we still don’t even realize that it is going to still and has already affected us. COVID is ongoing. It’s not going to go away. There is no, I know this whole thing, we don’t get into politics on this podcast. But the whole thing about being completely eradicating COVID is fantasy land. There is no such thing. Unless we shut down all of human society and everybody goes in a cave. I mean, it’s just not going to happen. We’re going to learn to live with COVID. And that means we are all going to learn to live with COVID. You’ve already adapted to and as have we all in whatever fashion we can. And again, I’m speaking from, of course we’re utilizing it because-
Dawn Belamarich:
Right, no choice.
Rich Hession:
… this is what we need to do. We will meet them where the situation warrants. I’ll do anything to get treatment to my people. Anything, it makes a difference. I guess what I’m saying is, there’s a quality thing there for me, my own assertion as to what I consider to be quality. And I’ll tell you that when we went fully virtual for a period of time with IOP, and then those folks who had been on IOP for a period of time we were like, we’re opening back up again. Clients were clamoring for it. You know why? The isolation.
Mike Karl:
Isolation.
Rich Hession:
See the isolation is not a friend of addiction. Family’s different thing. They have different addicts. Isolation is not a friend of an addict. And so getting them to come in, they wanted to come in. Some of them didn’t want to, but they did. If you know what I mean, they absolutely didn’t wanted to do it [crosstalk 00:48:25]. But they still somewhere inside they know they needed to come in.
Dawn Belamarich:
Yeah, they know they need to.
Rich Hession:
Did you ever have the experience, and we did. We met a client that had been doing just virtual for four months. They come in, they meet their counselor and they start crying and hugging them, because of the personal contact. Human contact. Did it help them? Hell yes it helped them. Sober four months using virtual IOP. Absolutely inarguable. But meeting them face-to-face and that human contact and that hug and the tears flowing, there’s nothing better.
Mike Karl:
I think to your point, the outcomes will be down the road. We won’t know for sure. Effective for some, for all no.
Dawn Belamarich:
You also can’t ever minimize the impact, yeah, of a person-to-person contact. I mean, before we had iPhones and social media and scrolled all day, we used to have conversations with each other. I remember it briefly, it was a brief glimpse of time. But there’s nothing that can replace that. I mean, connection and fellowship, that’s what recovery is all about. So there’s a part where once you acknowledge that piece and know that you’re not completely eliminating it, but you’re adding something that has value. I think that makes the most sense as we were all figuring it out as we go. I woke up this morning and there’s a new mandate for masks again in treatment facilities that came down. So-
Rich Hession:
In what state?
Dawn Belamarich:
The beautiful state of New Jersey.
Rich Hession:
Oh is that right? When did this occur?
Dawn Belamarich:
4:00 PM today, 3:00 PM,
Rich Hession:
Oh, that’s why, I’ve been-
Mike Karl:
I did not see it, but I’m sure.
Rich Hession:
… here preparing for this.
Dawn Belamarich:
I saw it came out and it was required for behavioral health facilities, all the state funded facilities. So, you wake up, you open your eyes, you’re pleasantly surprised by what the day has to bring. I mean, I think that is the way, and I had to learn to do that with COVID is like embracing what the day throws at you. And I don’t know. I think if we just took the approach and I think everyone has that’s doing treatment is like, “Okay, what is in the best interest of getting the patient well for the long haul?” And a lot of the times that was a mix, a hybrid model. Sometimes it was purely face-to-face, sometimes it was pure virtual because situation, but tomorrow might bring a new pleasant surprise our way, so.
Rich Hession:
An ever shifting paradigm and-
Dawn Belamarich:
Forever.
Rich Hession:
… you have to roll with the punches. And that’s-
Dawn Belamarich:
Constantly.
Rich Hession:
And that’s what we’ll do. And at the end of the day, the main goal is to help the client and the family, period. That’s number one. We always say that’s number one, two and three on our list of priorities. And then everything else is four, five and six and blah, blah, blah. But it’s always client and their family, client and family, client and family are one, two and three. It has to be all. And what does that look like? Whatever we need it to look like in order to keep this thing, to keep treatment coming and to keep the eye on the ball, which is that-
Dawn Belamarich:
100%.
Rich Hession:
That addiction and that alcoholism that’s killing so many people in a year.
Dawn Belamarich:
Agree.
Mike Karl:
I’ve been doing this 20 years. This is the most dynamic time of my career.
Rich Hession:
It’s live wire. And you guys have already said it, the uptick in mental health with anxiety and depression and it’s just live wire, it takes something that was already extremely problematic and it’s just intensified it.
Mike Karl:
And Dawn brought up the age thing. Our age is probably over the last year and a half has gone up 10 years probably [crosstalk 00:51:27]. I don’t have the numbers, but I mean during the height of the opiate, we couldn’t get a 29-year-old. That was 29, wow an alcoholic, and now it’s the population has shifted the other way. It’s probably 70% of alcohol-related or a mix.
Dawn Belamarich:
And 60 plus years old.
Mike Karl:
Right.
Dawn Belamarich:
I mean, the first three months I remember saying to the team, because I was, I think, again, preconceived notions. I’m assuming, “Okay, this is going to drive a lot of younger adults in the treatment.” All of the time occupiers that were of the past are now gone. So I’m just assuming falsely that younger adults are going to drive into treatment. First 90 days, I mean, influx without a doubt of older adults-
Mike Karl:
Older adults.
Dawn Belamarich:
… primary alcohol.
Rich Hession:
Well, let me throw something else out there at you guys.
Mike Karl:
They couldn’t hide it though.
Dawn Belamarich:
Nowhere else to isolate.
Mike Karl:
Nowhere to hide. Nowhere to hide.
Rich Hession:
I want to hear your guys’ thoughts on this. And again, this is all just, we all talk. And so we have our weekly meetings with every below the department heads, we’re always asking ourselves as we all have to do. I’m sure even on the individual side, and when you work out of the hospitals, they must do it as well. But we have these little bowl session meetings, so what could we be doing differently? We’re constantly asking ourselves that question, because this ever shifting landscape. We always have to be holding ourselves to account and what could we be doing differently? So some of the conversations we have that come up, and I use the term law of unintended consequences already. And one of the topics that came up recently was this very conversation of how many have the population has shifted a little older, a lot more alcohol.
And so we talked about that, and a lot of it, and there’s two parts to it interestingly in my experience and what we’ve seen so far. Number one, yes, it’s the at-home isolation. People are drinking a lot more. They’re doing other drugs more than they would ever have done it before, including marijuana. Because marijuana is absolutely brutal and it is a gateway drug and it never should have been legalized and whatever, but we had a whole topic on that, but whatever.
Dawn Belamarich:
I would have love to have been here for that.
Rich Hession:
So, but putting that aside, people are drinking more. There’s more anxiety, there’s more depression, there’s more of that’s stuff going on. It makes sense that you’d see because of everything that’s gone on with the law of unintended consequences of everything that’s gone on with COVID, we look at them, we consider the stimulus checks and the unemployment.
And how many of our younger heroin addicts are still out there, and they’ve paused. We haven’t seen them in many months and they are coming to a theater near you soon, because it’s going to end. And when the gravy train ends and the moratorium of not booting people out of their homes comes to-
Dawn Belamarich:
Unemployment.
Rich Hession:
… an end and unemployment ends and all the free money ends, the gravy train will stop. They’re all out there right now. And we’ve seen the uptick partially because there is more of that going on at home. But also because a lot of the folks that we would normally see, the 18 to 26 year olds hardcore addicts are-
Dawn Belamarich:
Still out there.
Rich Hession:
They’re still out there and they haven’t been getting the tuneups lately because they haven’t had to.
Dawn Belamarich:
Interesting.
Rich Hession:
I’m wondering what your thoughts on that?
Mike Karl:
The oxygen of that addiction is money. So they have money.
Rich Hession:
There it is. And again, I have no doubt-
Dawn Belamarich:
That is true.
Rich Hession:
… that the administration could never have realized there’s so many, any decision you make has multi-pronged consequences.
Dawn Belamarich:
100%.
Rich Hession:
All of them, not all positive. This is one of the big negatives in our field that we’re starting to see the effects of in a big way.
Julie Reardon:
Leaving liquor stores open.
Rich Hession:
Say it again.
Julie Reardon:
When everything shut down, leaving the liquor stores open.
Rich Hession:
Isn’t that an interesting decision, right? Talk about policy decisions. I think PA that was a big deal, right? Is that, am I-
Mike Karl:
Our states stores, yeah.
Rich Hession:
I’m pretty sure the state stores all stayed open and some people were outraged and infuriated, whereas other people said, “Well, people do have to get their wine.” I’ve heard from politicians say, “Well, people have to get their wine, especially now.”
Mike Karl:
Basic need.
Rich Hession:
Given what’s going on-
Mike Karl:
Hierarchy of human needs.
Rich Hession:
Yeah, of course. I mean, they need it now more than ever.
Dawn Belamarich:
[inaudible 00:55:21].
Rich Hession:
So, Dawn, I would put it to you and then maybe we can kick it all through. So again, there’s 80 million different side topics, but if you had to, speaking to anybody who’s watching and as far as the addict themselves. The addict and or their family, I mean, you can go to both, but COVID is scary. COVID is real, half a million people died in this country alone. And so it’s a real thing and it’s scary stuff, but what is your take on, I mean, or just how would you put it to somebody where keeping that into some type of perspective to what the alternative is and what the actual problem of addiction and alcoholism, speak to it?
Dawn Belamarich:
I mean, I think my call to action is really like-
Rich Hession:
Call to action.
Dawn Belamarich:
You know, yeah to get help. Is that COVID, as you mentioned, it’s going to be around as the flu is, as other diseases are, but addiction is unfortunately progressive. It will get worse, it will not get better. And what I see is a lot of people delaying the inevitable. So it really is. My call to action is, COVID is scary, COVID is real, COVID is a 100% there, but the disease of addiction will not slow down at a slower rate because of a COVID vaccine. Or if you stay home one more month and continue drinking, or if you wait until the end of September when the unemployment is up. None of those things will be halted for your substance use.
So it’s always my singular thing is like, all those things are distractions because addiction is there. And it won’t go away and it won’t stop on its own. So seek help, call. Call a friend, call a treatment center, call somebody who can help you, because it’s, I think that’s the number one thing I’ve seen during COVID is, it has caused a lot more distractions and I’ve seen people delay the inevitable, which is getting help. And it’s for what? COVID will be here next year. And we’ll be having the same conversation about a need for help. So that’s my one takeaway is, you’re safe, In any of these places you go, you’re as safe as you are in the ShopRite, in the Wawa or anywhere else you go. But the isolation and the hiding and the progression of disease of addiction will be there tomorrow when you wake up.
Rich Hession:
Now Mike for you, if you don’t mind. And again, I love the call to action. That’s exactly the term I was looking for. But Mike, I would ask you just to speak to, again, just kind of trying to tabulate a lot of the different stuff that we’ve kind of presented, that we talked about. The person that has been home for the last year and a half, heightened stress, heightened anxiety, been drinking a hell of a lot more than they normally do, and you know who you are and you’re out there and you’re an accountant and you’re a cop and you’re a nurse and you’re a teacher and you’re all these different folks, right? Any one of us, you’ve been drinking for a year and a half a hell of a lot more. And now you’ve realized, and you’ve decided, “This has gotten out of control. I’m going to stop.” Is it dangerous for somebody from 40 to 70 years old to just stop drinking after a year and a half of daily, larger quantities than they used to. just stopping drinking? Can you speak to that?
Mike Karl:
Yeah, I mean, it’s extremely dangerous, because you will go into a grand mal seizure. And I’ve witnessed, I don’t know if anybody, multiple times people having seizures from alcohol withdrawal. Your body is addicted to alcohol at a cellular level. And when you stopped feeding that you will go into seizure. It’s very scary. And we actually, we can treat that medically with medication to trick the body into thinking you’re still drinking. And it’s safe, it’s effective, and it’s relatively pain-free. So I invite you to get help now. Doing it on your own is the least effective way to do this.
Rich Hession:
So to the heroin addict, before I go to Julie, I’ll speak to the heroin addicts, my favorite person, my favorite thing that was ever told to me when Nick and I had gone to, was it you and I, Nick? No, it was me and [Troke 00:59:32]. And had gone to intervention training, and we went with Earl Hightower.
Mike Karl:
Oh, Earl Hightower.
Rich Hession:
You all know Earl. Earl’s wonderful man, Hightower Associates throughout West Coast, Earl is astounding, right? And his favorite line to me, one of the things that he uses when he talks to people, and it’s a reality for the detox world. And it’s something that, especially heroin addicts, what are heroin addicts most scared of than anything else is getting sick. That five, six days for them is the most unappealing, most frightening. It’s scarier to them than the idea of continuing to live the way they’re living and Earl put it the best way. And I use it all the time and we always tell them, “Listen, when you come in, we’re going to load you up on the front ends with plenty of meds, and we’re going to bring you down smooth and easy.” That’s what they want to hear. And that’s what I’m telling you, that’s what we do. We load you up on the front end with all the meds that you’re going to need, and we try and bring you down smooth and easy. And that’s available, calling the-
Mike Karl:
You can do it now. You do not have to wait.
Rich Hession:
You can do it right now.
Dawn Belamarich:
Right, this minute you can do it.
Mike Karl:
You’re here and it’s now.
Rich Hession:
And it ain’t going to get better. It’s only going to get worse, that’s just the reality. Julie, what about you? Words of wisdom, especially maybe to the families or to the individuals, mental health side, especially with the stress and anxiety and such.
Julie Reardon:
So a lot of people are hesitant to reach out to a detox or an IOP or inpatient, right? They don’t want to do that. So if someone calls me and they’re actively drinking, I’ll talk to them, I’ll see them with the intention of moving them towards the level of care that they absolutely need. The disease of addiction is progressive. It only gets worse, it never gets better. Never, ever gets better. It will get worse. The other point I wanted to make too, is that in the hospital setting we see people come in, they want to come to detox. The hospital is not a detox. So in the emergency room there’s a crisis department. They will, the doctors hopefully will call crisis and crisis will do their intervention and try to get them into a detox. But they need to want to do that. If they don’t want that, if they’re not suicidal, they won’t get crisis to intervene. But some of the hospitals, as you know, have a peer recovery program, OORP I’m not sure of what OORP actually stands for, it’s the opioid-
Rich Hession:
Opioid Overdose Reversal Program.
Julie Reardon:
Okay. So, OORP was not allowed to come into the hospitals during COVID, active COVID. I believe they’re just starting to get back now. So those individuals that came in that overdose that were Narcanned, they either got medicine to get them through their first 24 hours. If the doctor saw anxiety, depression, any mental health, I don’t know how you couldn’t, but any mental health issues then crisis got involved. Now the peer recovery programs were not in every single hospital. So the hospital that I’m working in has a small program now that is started so that we can go down and see those patients and talk to them and try to get them into treatment. So all the treatment centers, we try to hook them up to.
Mike Karl:
And Saying that, you think about that in a simple form, that’s one channel that addicts and alcoholics didn’t have for help during COVID. Because they weren’t running to the ED with COVID running rampant.
Julie Reardon:
Right.
Mike Karl:
They weren’t going there.
Rich Hession:
Right, yeah.
Mike Karl:
So there was no … The crisis-
Rich Hession:
Because if they went there, they were not treated.
Dawn Belamarich:
They weren’t the priority [crosstalk 01:03:24].
Julie Reardon:
Like okay. Get sick-
Mike Karl:
Right, And they were scared. I’m not going there to get COVID.
Rich Hession:
Even within the hospitals to speak to that. It’s interesting that so many, and this is kind of what my overall point was that yeah, 93,331 overdose stats, but there’s a lot more deaths that are alcohol related. To the OORP program, They would only send you bedside If Narcan was administered, If OD only. Now there’s plenty of other interventions that should AND need to be taken place in a hospital with private client folks. There’s a lot of interventions that could and should be taken, We’re getting there. But teaching the hospital people, like the addiction doctors we do, at BlueCrest we do the addiction hours. All interns have to have a certain amount of intern hours. So we with Riverside Medical Group, and I don’t know if I’m allowed to say your guys’ name, but you guys doing it with us, so I don’t care, but they’re coming in.
I’ll give them a shout out, Riverside Medical, we use them all the time. And Riverside Medical will send their docs in to do with our psychiatrist who is on staff full time and he’ll do their addiction hours. So they get their internship hours with us. And if only we could teach all professionals in all areas within the hospital, from the nurses to the text and the orderlies to the social workers to have that eye out for addiction. Because just because they came in and they had a heart attack, I wonder why. I wonder-
Mike Karl:
Well I mean, that’s the true thing, the death certificate’s not going to say acute alcoholism.
Rich Hession:
But that’s what killed them. That’s what killed them. And that’s reality.
Dawn Belamarich:
And that’s what I’m excited to hear that you’re in the hospitals. I mean, it takes a lot to get a psych called, or we don’t have that in Jersey. But a psych hospitalization for someone, and realistically the more individuals in hospitals that are educated about addiction. I know for a fact, to me, when somebody tells somebody who is struggling with addiction, “You need help,” and you’re a medical professional, that resonates with someone way more than just a random Joe off the street. It really does, because we go to doctors for help, we respect their opinion. And I really feel like in the hospitals, if we had more individuals who were educated and really strong advocates for getting people the treatment they need-
Mike Karl:
And willing to engage.
Dawn Belamarich:
And willing to care about it.
Mike Karl:
Yeah.
Rich Hession:
So I’m going to speak to the policymakers. And you know, this pandemic is the first we’ve lived through in our lifetime. Something like this is just Medi-Cal but this is legit. This is scary beyond belief. There’s lots of unintended consequences. There was well-meaning policies that went bad. And then there were non-existing policies which should have been there. And so now I would say, just look at all these things, one of the law of unintended consequences of COVID that it had the effect you just brought up and it was at the tail end of when we’re wrapping up. But you’re right, OORP. I volunteered, that’s how I knew what it stood for. I volunteered for OORP in Bergen County when it first came out. Well, before we opened BlueCrest, we were in the process of opening and I heard about this and I’m like, “I’ll volunteer to do that, just because I’ll go bedside. I want to talk to everybody.”
We weren’t even open yet and I’m like, and it has nothing to do with treatment. I did that as just an individual human being to go bedside. And I said, “Yeah, I’ll go do that. I’ll volunteer to do that stuff.” So OORP plays a very important role. If somebody overdoses, they have Narcan. God, I wanted to punch some of those people so bad. Your mom is crying, bro. Go, go to the treatment, go to rehab. And the guy’s like, “Just, where’s my shorts?” And I’m like, “Where’s your shorts?” I’m not tempered well for that. Because I just want to throw out [crosstalk 01:06:43] the guy. And so, but the thing is, again, policymakers, this is just one small example that Julie brought up, OORP was no longer allowed to go bedside. That’s not okay. I get the COVID thing, you’re right. And you do have to limit hospitals, but you don’t limit OORP workers. Because OORP workers are going to addiction. We are already losing hundreds of thousands of people a year. You don’t get to say we can’t go help the addicts.
Dawn Belamarich:
We essentially say they’re not essential, is what we say [crosstalk 01:07:13]-
Mike Karl:
We prioritized [crosstalk 01:07:12]-
Rich Hession:
We’ve been in a state of emergency for decades. You guys are all new to this, we aren’t. We’ve been dealing with hundreds of thousands of deaths a year. You don’t get to stop OORP. You don’t get to stop PHP programs, detox programs and residential programs. We are essential beyond belief. When it comes to the addiction world, we already have. Have CNN run the tally of alcohol and drug related deaths, including overdoses on the top of the screen day in and day out and let people see the reality of what goes on every day because of drug addiction.
Mike Karl:
We’ve talked about it. The streets in New York, people were complaining about the homeless and everything else. Well that’s because they were the only ones left on the streets. So a problem that was already there became really apparent-
Rich Hession:
Very obvious to everyone.
Mike Karl:
To people who ignored it for years.
Rich Hession:
Right, for years and years.
Dawn Belamarich:
That’s true.
Rich Hession:
So listen, I thank you guys all for coming and chatting about this stuff. And hopefully, listen, even if nobody out there got anything out of it, I know I did. And you guys were all a super pleasure.
Mike Karl:
It was a lot of fun.
Dawn Belamarich:
Thanks for having us.
Julie Reardon:
Thank you.
Rich Hession:
And we appreciate you, guys.
Mike Karl:
It was a lot of fun, thank you.
Dawn Belamarich:
Thank you.
Rich Hession:
Kev, thank you very much. And again, you can get us on Facebook, SoundCloud, YouTube and Spotify, and Nick, I guess we didn’t have any questions?
Nick:
No, just a lot of people-
Rich Hession:
Just commentary and stuff. Were they saying how awesome my car looked?
Nick:
Yeah.
Rich Hession:
He really does look great.
Mike Karl:
Oh, stop it.
Rich Hession:
And that’s it, we’re good.
Mike Karl:
How dare you? Have a good face for radio.
Rich Hession:
Dude we just closed off …

 

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I feel like I’ve found somebody that was long lost and I’m still finding that person, and it’s a journey that I’m welcoming. I’ve gotten my life back and I’ve gotten my soul back.

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