State’s opioid support network adapts to COVID-19 pandemic challenges

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New Hampshire Governor kicking off the initiative on March 27, 2018. (courtesy photo/RFW)

CONCORD, NH – The opioid epidemic hasn’t gone away in the age of COVID-19, but efforts to help those recovering from opioid abuse are evolving with the times.

For just over two years, the Recovery Friendly Workplace Initiative (RFW) has helped Granite Staters recover from opioid addiction with the help of businesses across New Hampshire. As the economic landscape has changed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Program Director of Recovery Friendly Workplace and Vice President of Public Health at Granite United Way Shannon Bresaw is looking to remind people that opioid addiction isn’t going away even if society’s immediate concern has to shift.

“(COVID-19) what we really need to be focused on right now, and that’s okay, but we can’t forget that people in recovery face significant challenges and those challenges won’t just go away,” she said. “I think those challenges will be exasperated with self-isolation process as well as the impact of COVID-19 on our economy. When people are in isolation, mental health and recovery from opioid addiction can be impacted.”

RFW and its partners are trying to be sensitive toward the new hardships faced by the 265 New Hampshire businesses participating in the initiative, with the support for the 70,000 New Hampshire residents slowly pivoting into a broader focus with employment-centric government agencies and non-profit groups such as New Hampshire Employment Security.

The pandemic has also forced RFW to begin new support mechanisms like remote meetings and online job training programs for its participants. While the lack of face-to-face support has been a blow to some people recovering from opioid addiction participating in RFW, the remote efforts have also opened doors to many participants that previously had barriers to support such as a lack of transportation.

“It’s possible that the current situation we find ourselves in has opened a ton of new doors we never knew could be opened before,” said Mary Boisse, a manager with RFW and the SOS Recovery Community Organization in Dover.

As Boisse has talked to individuals recovering from opioid addiction and their reactions to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, she says responses have run the gamut from fear to seeking to support others to internal retrospection forced by isolation.

Indeed, that retrospection has turned the state’s stay-at-home order into a time of rejuvenation for some.

“This time of being with yourself has show a lot of people that maybe we don’t fully face the day because we’re so busy with our lives,” she said. “Now that many people have more time on their hands, they’re beginning to work out things they hadn’t considered before.”

Although COVID-19 has forced RFW and the people that rely upon it or participate within it to adapt, Bresaw says that the program’s funding is secure for the next two years and additional grant requests are in progress to ensure the program’s stability, ensuring that its work with the NH 2-1-1 program and various Doorways facilities across the state will continue and that efforts to duplicate the program in other states can still proceed.

“We will continue to help folks on their path to recovery and make sure they have the resources they need on that path,” she said.

More information on RFW can be found on its website, recoveryfriendlyworkplace.com

About Andrew Sylvia 1728 Articles
Born and raised in the Granite State, Andrew Sylvia has written approximately 10,000 pieces over his career for outlets across Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. On top of that, he's a licensed notary and license to sell property, casualty and life insurance, he's been a USSF trained youth soccer and futsal referee for the past six years and he can name over 60 national flags in under 60 seconds according to that flag game app he has on his phone, which makes sense because he also has a bachelor's degree in geography (like Michael Jordan). He can also type over 100 words a minute on a good day.