Adventures with Telehealth Services:

How Coronavirus is changing the face of addiction treatment at Bridging the Gaps

We all find ourselves responding to the Coronavirus pandemic in new and innovative ways, and Bridging the Gaps is no different. As a substance abuse treatment facility that prides itself on high-quality, individualized care for our clients, we have had to jump through many hoops to keep our clients safe.

As the initial concerns about the virus spreading became evident, our team jumped into action drafting a plan to create a “safety bubble” for our residential clients. We started daily briefings with instructions on hand washing and social distancing. We created guidelines about where our clients could go, and restricted their movement as time went on. We quickly realized that we could not maintain a COVID-free bubble unless we made some dramatic changes.

We started by cancelling our Saturday family education sessions and visitation time which was a difficult decision to make. Addiction does not just affect the client in treatment; it touches each member of a family. The family’s support and engagement in their own recovery process can be vital to a client’s ability to maintain long-term sobriety. As a team, we ensured that families received regular updates about how we were keeping their loved ones safe in treatment. We also made changes to our standard phone-time protocol to provide access to video chat so that our clients could connect with their families “face-to-face.”

A key ingredient to sustained abstinence for most individuals involves a system of ongoing support provided within the 12 Step communities. That’s why, in addition to our therapeutic modalities, we encourage clients to be actively involved in a 12 Step program. In response to Coronavirus, we have shifted our daily meetings to the internet. Addiction is often a disease of isolation so addicts around the globe are turning to online meetings as a lifeline. The size of meetings and lack of intimacy online makes it more challenging to connect, build relationships, share, and receive support. Despite these challenges, our clients have worked together to support one another to maintain regular attendance at meetings. They have also come together with creative solutions for meetings, such as streaming speakers and then sharing with one another.  

As COVID cases increased within our community and the Governor of Virginia declared a stay-at-home order, Bridging the Gaps took the next big step in how we provide treatment. We have shifted to a Telehealth platform. We still have a core group of clients who were in the original “safety bubble,” and they are living together in a Bridging the Gaps residence. While Bridging the Gaps is no longer providing residential services, we have made one of our homes available as a sober living environment for those who wanted to stay as we moved toward Telehealth. We are not bringing others into the home at this point but we wanted to provide the best continuum of care for our existing clients as possible.

Joining the members of our residence, we have clients who chose to move home during this pandemic and our outpatient clients attending daily sessions through Go-To-Meeting. Our counselors are providing the same quality of care in small group settings as we did in-person. During the morning, clients attend a psychoeducation session followed by a group therapy process. In the afternoon, additional groups are provided that cover topics such as living skills and creative expressions. Our schedule allows for us to offer full-day treatment (PHP), half-day treatment (IOP), and an aftercare group for clients who have completed their core treatment at Bridging the Gaps and need additional support during this trying time.

Our programming has had to shift as we have transitioned to a Telehealth platform. There are some services that we cannot offer remotely, such as neurofeedback or massage therapy. Though Rodie, our therapy-dog-in-training, is disappointed with our streamlined program as he gets less love from the clients, we are still able to offer the core aspects of our program. Our clients are able to receive weekly individual sessions in addition to the groups. As we grow more adept at providing Telehealth services, we are also starting to incorporate family services again through conjoint sessions via Go-To-Meeting.  

While substance abuse treatment looks a lot different at Bridging the Gaps today than it did just a few short weeks ago, we are still committed to providing the highest quality of care that we can, given the circumstances. We are proud to have a staff that is willing to provide a continuum of care for our existing clients in the midst of global uncertainty. We also look forward to onboarding new clients through the Telehealth platform. If you, or someone you love, is in need of substance abuse treatment please reach out to our Admissions Director, Sue, to learn more about your options during these difficult times.

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