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Posted 12/21/2020

Treatment Enhancements to Meet Pandemic Challenges

While vaccine news in the fight against COVID-19 is promising, the pandemic has taken its toll on those struggling with addictive behaviors. Recognizing this challenge, the National Center for Wellness & Recovery has made strides in expanding treatment options and enhanced offerings at its new primary treatment location.

“COVID has caused decreases in group gatherings, a modality frequently used and critical in many patients' recovery,” said Kelly Dunn, M.D., executive director of clinical treatment at National Center for Wellness & Recovery. “With continued isolation, patients are unable to access the social support they need to navigate challenging moments during their recovery.”

While social distancing measures have been taken to reduce the spread of infection at many treatment facilities, the unintended consequence is that fewer patients can be served. This reduced treatment capacity is of particular concern because of increased health risks and why NCWR has ramped up innovative options to ensure patient care during this time.

“Patients who struggle with addictive disorders are at higher risk of the impacts of COVID-19. Many drugs of dependence reduce immune system function,” said Dunn. “In addition, the effects of smoking or vaping products have negative impact on the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, both risk factors for developing complications from COVID-19.”

According to Dunn, immediate COVID-related health risks aren’t the only challenges unique to the pandemic. Many patients in recovery have lost their jobs, leading to relapse, and there’s also risk of lifetime addiction linked to childhood trauma.

“I am particularly concerned for the potential increase in childhood trauma and increase in risk factors due to the impacts of COVID-19. We know that when childhood trauma increases, so does lifetime addiction,” she shared.

To combat these risk factors and improve outcomes, NCWR has rolled out Virtual Addiction Treatment Services throughout Oklahoma and opened the NCWR Addiction Recovery Clinic in Tulsa’s Legacy Plaza. The new clinic features in-person treatment with enhanced COVID-related protocols and offers an on-site virtual room.

“It’s important for us to provide solutions. A patient who may have limited technology resources can sit in the room equipped with an iPad and see a clinician virtually,” said Dunn. “We can also utilize the room for paperwork and drug screens while reducing both the patient and clinician's exposure to each other.”

While the new facility’s capabilities have enabled the clinic to safely serve more patients, a coordinated care model at Legacy can also lead to better overall health outcomes.

“This new facility allows professionals from multiple areas to be co-located in a single building which allows patients to meet many of their medical needs in a single location,” said Dunn.

Thanks to The Anne & Henry Zarrow Foundation’s investment in the new $60 million+ Legacy Plaza complex, OSU Medicine and NCWR are bringing addiction medicine, psychiatry, counseling and family medicine all under one roof, along with support services for virtual addiction treatment.

“For many patients this is crucial as they do not have to navigate multiple buildings and systems nor have to find transportation to multiple areas. We expect this to increase engagement in treatment which is correlated with better outcomes,” said Dunn. “Our new facilities provide a beautiful place to obtain high-quality, compassionate care.”

Deanne Vick | December 2020
deanne.vick@okstate.edu