Those without addiction services because of self-quarantine or suspended meetings due to the spread of the 2019 coronavirus still have resources available to them, according to Northumberland County Drug and Alcohol Director Emanuel Giorgini on Wednesday.
If Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings are canceled, those individuals fighting addiction have access to telephonic and computer-based apps for individuals to avoid group settings at this time. Online meetings can be found at aa-intergroup.org/directory.php and speaker tape websites can be found at www.aaspeaker.com, hacoaa.org/archives/speakers and www.recoveryaudio.org.
"I think just like any other vulnerable population, we all will have to assure that we do our best to provide support to everyone that is in need of help," said Giorgini. "We, as a county, are fortunate to have a robust human service system and quality provider agencies. We will all need to continue to collaborate and process this pandemic to assure we continue to support all of our community members, especially those who are most vulnerable."
Treatment providers continue to manage this pandemic as best they can, he said.
"They continue to follow their own internal protocols to assure everyone remains safe while still providing treatment as necessary," he said. "Some providers are temporarily discontinuing group therapy sessions and implementing more individual counseling to assure continuity of therapeutic intervention. Our department has moved to telehealth assessment, referral and case management during this time."
Giorgini said there are also apps that can be found on Apple iTunes and Google Play, including AA Audio Companion, AA Big Book Ultimate Companion, AA Speaker Tapes, Daily Bread AA, AA Phone Meetings and others.
Barbara Gorrell, the administrator for the drug and alcohol programs at Columbia Montour Snyder Union Counties of Central Pennsylvania Service System's admin, a four-county joinder governed by each county, said many AA or NA meetings are canceled but some are still meeting. Each individual meeting group is making their own decisions to close or stay open.
"There's always an avenue if someone is willing to stay connected," said Gorrell. "It's not optimum but these are not optimum times. It requires thinking outside the box."
Like Giorgini, Gorrell noted that there are online meetings, telephonic connections to sponsors or other people in the program and changing to a meeting that is still scheduled.
"As with everybody, there's a certain amount of stress and anxiety," she said. "They have to rely on their own way of coping, including reaching out to other people so they're not socially isolated."
Services at CMSU have not stopped. They are keeping the doors open and doing telephone assessments, she said.
Sandy Runyan, the public relations manager at Shiloh United Church of Christ in Danville, said the AA, NA and DA groups chose to suspend meetings for the next few weeks. She said there was a false rumor circulating that Shiloh closed and forced the groups out.
Details and contact numbers are posted on entryway doors, she said.
Joe N,, who has been clean and sober for 10 years, said the Shiloh meetings are being held over the telephone until April 1 every morning at 7 a.m. and three nights a week. There were 10 people on the conference call on Wednesday morning.
"It's the best we can do," he said. "We are concerned about newcomers who need access to these meetings. We need to keep the doors open, but since we can't, we keep the phone lines open. From a personal point of view, I really needed the meetings when I was a newcomer."
He invited anyone from outside the area to join the call. The number is 425-436-6330 and the access code is 514510#.
Northumberland County President Judge Charles Saylor entered an order declaring a judicial emergency that suspends treatment court and other civil proceedings until after April 14 with exceptions.
Union-Snyder President Judge Michael T. Hudock said “there is a great deal of concern” about the health of participants in drug and alcohol treatment court who will not be able to attend weekly meetings with court personnel now that both county courts are under a judicial emergency.
“We will still require them to do regular drug testing, but to the greatest extent possible most contact will be by video,” he said.
Since AA and similar meetings are canceled, Hudock said probation staff are encouraging treatment court participants to make use of online and telephone self-help meetings.