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Overdoses rise in South Florida as people struggle with isolation from pandemic

By Andrew Boryga, Sun Sentinel on

Published in News & Features

"Lots of people are looking for treatment," he said, adding that they include people who may have been functional in their drug and substance use but have now been pushed over the edge during the pandemic.

According to a recent survey by the National Council for Behavioral Health, 52% of treatment centers have seen an increase demand for services during the pandemic. However, 65% have also had to cancel, reschedule or turn away patients due to social distancing requirements, a lack of protective equipment to guard against the coronavirus and sharp decreases in revenue.

Ingrid VanAlstyne, director of business development at Futures Recovery Healthcare in Jupiter, said the demand at her 105-bed facility held steady through the worse days of the pandemic.

But like many treatment centers, they had to make staff cuts and adjustments such as housing patients in their own rooms, which limited how many people they could accept.

She said other facilities in the area have had to shut their doors altogether.

Many centers said they have turned to Zoom to replace in-person gatherings and recovery meetings. While the technology has allowed them to reach more people, particularly those in rural areas, every treatment center said the technology cannot replace the benefits of meeting in person for those struggling with addiction.


"Zoom meetings have served their purpose," said Steve English, the assistant director of the Cross Roads Club in Delray Beach. "But I think some people still need the physical accountability of seeing someone or even taking the initiative to drive some place."

The Cross Roads Club supplies space for 12-step meetings and other recovery-based programs. Before the pandemic started, English said about 800 people a day came through their doors. Now, they have about 300 a day due to social distancing restrictions.

Katz said that for many of the addicts that she helps in Boynton Beach, meetings are often matters of "life and death" because isolation is an inherent problem. "That is why people push them to go to meetings and be social so that they get out of that mode," she said. "But now they are back in the house again."

South Florida is known for historically high overdose deaths, addiction and corruption on the part of care centers and sober homes.


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