PORTSMOUTH — While the coronavirus looms across the globe, health officials continue to advocate that other, pre-COVID health issues are still being discussed and actions are being done to help those affected.
Dealing with addiction matters, long-reported as an issue locally, Dr. Shawn Ryan, Brightview president and chief medical officer projected the coronavirus would reveal itself to be particularly troubling to those fighting substance abuse.
“The factors that are most commonly attributed to the development or worsening of addiction are really compounded by the current state of affairs,” said Ryan, who co-founded BrightView with Chad Smith.
Those factors- isolation, anxiety and depression- have become more common as a result of the coronavirus, which has surpassed 210,000 deaths in the country and caused economic despair.
Aware of this, U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup of Ohio’s 2nd District believed financial assistance would not be sufficient for those battling addiction.
“We, as a nation, have tried to do all we can to allow people keep their jobs ultimately and to bring our businesses back,” said Wenstrup, following an August news conference where Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia announced $5 million would be coming to southern Ohio in the form of a job training program. “But there’s downtime and we all know it’s during that downtime when people aren’t essential, when there’s isolation, depression and you can see things like opioid abuse and other forms of drugs coming into your life.”
Before the coronavirus, Ryan believes steps to fight addiction have been inadequate and ultimately more action needs to come from state and federal levels of government.
“To some extent, we were dealing with a very serious issue in the country before Covid that had been making minimal progress, especially in the state of Ohio,” said Ryan. “But they were still making some progress.”
Nationally, this was the case between 2017 and 2018, where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the number of drug overdose deaths decreased by 4%. Despite this progress, overdose deaths have continued to be a problem that took 81 lives in Scioto County last year and 41 so far this year as of Aug. 13 according to Harm Reduction Ohio.
“I think there have been some significant improvements, but I think we’re still behind,” said Ryan. “It’s such a common disorder, but we don’t spend anywhere near the amount of funding as we do on other diseases.”
To take on this battle on Covid’s terms, Ryan said BrightView became increasingly reliant on telemedicine strategies, which allows the staff to discuss face-to-face with patients in a video setting.
“We had already been doing some telehealth before COVID and we are beginning to expand those services,” said Ryan, starting its expansion in the early stages of the medicine. “We probably should have had this level of access to telehealth before…. That really allows us to best meet patients where they’re at.”
Telehealth actually gives patients more access to treatment, says Ryan, especially to those who might not otherwise seek help. Beyond their services, however, he recommends people to reach-out regularly to family and friends who may be alone or depressed.
BrightView currently serves more than 6,000 patients across its 24 locations, including its recently opened Portsmouth location at 1404 11th Street.
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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