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Pandemic leads to addiction struggles for many; help is available

Treatment options are available for those struggling with addiction or mental health issues during the coronavirus outbreak.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Many residents are struggling with the isolation caused by the stay home directive.

Representatives from Hazelden Betty Ford treatment centers joined Laural Porter on Straight Talk to talk about help and hope available for those struggling with addiction or mental health issues.

Heidi Wallace is the director of Oregon operations. She said they've seen more people reaching out for treatment during the pandemic, both in their inpatient facility and on their new virtual platform.

The inpatient center in Newberg is open, using a pandemic response plan recommended by the CDC and the Oregon Health Authority to keep people safe.

"We need to be open so people aren't going to their local hospitals where they need to treat patients with COVID-19 and other health conditions," she said.

Research by Neilsen showed alcohol sales ending the week of March 21 were up 55%. Spirits like tequila saw a sales jump of 75% compared to the same period last year. Wine sales were up 66%, while beer sales rose 42%. And online sales were up 243%.

Carrie Steinseifer Bates is the Oregon community outreach representative for Hazelden Betty Ford. She's also a former Olympic swimmer who won three gold medals in the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. 

Credit: Carrie Bates

She struggled for years with addiction and has been in recovery since 2012.
Even now, she said, the isolation of the pandemic presents a real challenge.

"I don't think I'll ever be immune to the symptoms of the disease no matter how long I'm sober. I do have years of tools of experience as a woman living in recovery to fall back on, but I have to actually use them every day in order to maintain my sobriety," she said.

She said addiction is a disease rooted in isolation, stress, anxiety, depression and loneliness. She said the conditions presented by the pandemic are a breeding ground for people struggling. 

 “The key ingredient to sobriety is connection,” Bates said. She urged people having a hard time to stay connected with those in recovery and not to get stuck in isolation at home.

Watch the full episode:

More people than ever are seeking help and being treated on the Hazelden Betty Ford virtual platform. It's something that was already being used in a pilot program in California, but the pandemic accelerated its launch.

And Wallace said insurance companies have responded and are paying for the virtual treatment.

People who live just about anywhere in Oregon and Washington who might not have been able to receive treatment before now have access to the help they need with the virtual therapy.

"We're reaching communities we've never been able to treat before in an outpatient setting. We went from six patients to 1500 in one week," she said.

Bates encouraged people who are contemplating getting sober to reach out to the services they would have before the pandemic. She said Hazelden Betty Ford is open and there are many other resources available.

People who want help can join online recovery meetings for free 24-7 on the website TheDailyPledge.org. There are also free mobile app links and other resources available at HazeldenBettyFord.org.

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Hazelden Betty Ford also offers treatment for mental health issues. Even in the pandemic, Wallace said there's more hope than ever. More help available than ever.

"That's what we are. The antidote to addiction is hope," she said.

Straight Talk airs Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at 6:30 p.m., and Monday at 4:30 a.m. It's also available on podcast.

RELATED: KGW's Straight Talk is now a podcast!

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