The East Kootenay Addiction Services Society (EKASS) is continuing to provide crucial services to those dealing with addictions, even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although the society was forced to close their doors, they are still working daily with clients to ensure they have the support they need. Despite the fact that counsellors can still provide online and over the phone support, EKASS executive director Dean Nicholson said that it might not be enough for some people.
“What we’ve found is that some people prefer face to face to the point where they might choose to not have contact with their counselor while this is going on,” Nicholson explained. “There are also people that because of their economic situation, they don’t actually have access to phones or computers so their ability to get service becomes even more limited.”
Addictions in the time of COVID-19 can become even more complicated since people’s options for receiving support are diminished. Some groups like Alcoholics Anonymous hold online meetings but other, more intensive rehabilitation programs have been shut down.
“Another potential factor is that a lot of the residential treatment centres in the province that we might refer people to that require an inpatient stay are also not able to accept new people at the moment so some of those resources might not be so readily available,” said Nicholson.
That being said, the EKASS counsellors are in contact with their clients virtually as often as needed to provide what support they can. People who are looking to speak with a counsellor still have various ways to do so, including visiting the EKASS website or giving the society a call to schedule an appointment.
EKASS is also continuing another crucial part of their work throughout the pandemic: harm reduction.
“We also continue to supply harm reduction supplies that we have to get out to the community such as Naloxone kits for opioid overdoses and safer inhalation and safer injection kits,” said Nicholson. “We are providing those to some of our community partners at the distribution sites and we check in with everybody to make sure they can get the best supplies.”
People who use substances or are working through an addiction already will no doubt feel the added pressure of COVID-19 but Nicholson also noted that the added stress might lead to more people searching for release with alcohol or drugs.
“We have a concern because we know that when there are difficult economic times or periods of hard stress for people, some people are more at risk for turning to alcohol or other substances as a way of managing that stress,” Nicholson said. “We would have a concern that some people might start to use in a way that is going to put them at risk for either in the moment problems or for longer term substance use problems.”
Nicholson added that there are, of course, ways to use responsibly but that people should examine their use if they start to increase the amount they consume or if their patterns of use change. This can be indicative of a larger problem.
“When we see that people are using to manage what might be considered negative or difficult emotions like fear, anxiety, stress, grief, then we have a concern that it puts people at a greater risk of misusing substances,” Nicholson explained. “If you’re using as a way to manage what you’re feeling about this pandemic and the uncertainty, then be really careful because that can risk becoming a slippery slope.”
If you or someone you know would like more information on EKASS, counselling or addiction services, you can visit their website at Ekass.com.