The American Society of Addiction Medicine is a group of over 6,000 treatment professionals who provide guidance to treatment centers for improving quality of care. They have created procedures to mitigate infection during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although they focus primarily on inpatient treatment settings, portions of their advice can also apply to community living programs such as sober housing. ASAM recommends taking a long term, structured approach to preparing for COVID-19 phases.
Understanding the Ongoing Need for Treatment
As might be expected, the current crisis is likely to increase risks associated with drug dependence and substance abuse. The social distancing, anxiety, and isolation associated with our nation’s attempt to flatten the curve all increase the likelihood of relapse and the ongoing development of substance abuse disorders.
Addiction doesn’t stop.
So it is reasonable to expect many treatment centers to operate above typical levels of capacity (after all, there are more people needing help). As an essential service, the goal is to protect the health of both staff and residents to prevent the spread of COVID-19. At the same time, it is crucial to maintain normal services in a therapeutic environment.
Although Orange County has had relatively low rates of COVID-19, ASAM recommends that treatment centers prepare for the phases ahead.
Anticipated COVID-19 Phases
It is a pretty clear conundrum: treatment centers get more impacted with the pandemic, which creates an even greater need for staff and program directors to ensure that people are staying apart enough to keep everyone healthy. The solution to this problem varies between localities and communities, so no two solutions will look the same.
During the first of the COVID-19 phases, most programs have yet to have any residents or staff test positive for the virus. Programs have already begun to implement cautionary measures like social distancing, staggered work schedules, and increased cleaning of the facilities. Programs are developing protocols to keep symptomatic patients in isolation.
This stage will look different for each area of the country. New York and New Jersey, for example, reached peak transmission very quickly, whereas California’s more strict social distancing mandates have flattened the curve to a degree. Facilities should plan ahead for when this stage hits, though. That includes stocking up on proper amounts of personal protective equiment (PPE) as much as possible, especially considering how short supply continues to be for these items.
Eventually, COVID-19 phases will move the virus transmission from pandemic to endemic status. This stage will see a relaxing of extreme measures needed during peak transmission. But it shall continue to be important to practice good infection control measures so facilities don’t see any flare ups return.
Safety Protocols to Consider
These services can either be rendered on an outpatient basis or with patients who are under quarantine.
Securing Safe Quarantine
If a program is not able to isolate or quarantine patients, they should work with local public health authorities where this accommodation can be met. They may also consider transferring the patient to a facility that DOES have safe quarantine accommodations.
Preparing for Quarantine
Inpatient treatment programs should have clear protocols in place for taking care of individuals who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19. They should be placed in separate facilities for adequate quarantine–if a treatment center cannot accommodate this, there are local public resources available, or patients can be transferred to a center that does have separate quarantine facilities.
All entrants to the facility should be screened for symptoms of COVID-19. In areas with heavy community spread, patients should limit any trips outside of the facility to an absolute minimum. These areas should also restrict all visitors from entering the premises; for areas with no serious outbreak, visitors should either be barred completely or restricted to one visitor per resident.
Establish Regular Disinfecting
The virus can live on surfaces for days. To decrease the risk of transmission through touch, staff should be trained on regular disinfecting procedures to clean facility surfaces often. Although the most common route of transmission is close respiratory contact with an infected individual, it is best to
We will continue to provide the latest up-to-date information for treatment centers handling COVID-19. If you or a loved one is seeking help for a substance abuse problem, our counselors are available 24/7 by phone: 855-737-7363