SUBSTANCE ABUSE INDUSTRY NEWS #7
The COVID-19 Pandemic and its Impact on Substance Use Disorder
Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the collective national consciousness has been largely absorbed by the minute-to-minute coverage of the virus. And though I may be accused to some degree of partiality—some of the most direct, informative, and fascinating reporting on the pandemic has originated from the talented duo that form the Romano Law Nurse Corner on this very blog (see their latest updates covering Covid-19 vaccines here and here). Of course, a global public health crisis certainly warrants the attention; at the same time, it’s critical that efforts to address the ongoing national substance abuse epidemic not be neglected.
Early Returns Indicate Sharp Rise in Overdoses and Related Mortality Rates
While the potential impact that the pandemic has had on the course of the opioid epidemic and the abuse of other substances has yet to be exhaustively investigated, published reports from across the country indicate an increased prevalence in overdose deaths. For example, a Richmond-based local news outlet reports that overdose cases are up 60% in the area, while a national study found that overdoses have risen 18% throughout the U.S. The American Medical Association has published a compilation of these reports, including specific information from 42 different states here.
What Exactly is Fanning the Flames?
Sadly, it’s not surprising to see the spike in overdose rates given the circumstances brought about in the wake of Covid-19. For one thing, experts generally agree that drug use often increases during economic downturns, a circumstance not unlike the financial concerns and employment uncertainty faced by many people affected by the lockdown measures instituted to curb spread of the virus. Long periods of isolation also can make it more difficult for people with substance use disorders to manage their conditions and increases the likelihood that a person who overdoses may not receive potentially life-saving care from another. Furthermore, added obstacles in gaining admission to a treatment facility or the inability to regularly meet with one’s abstinence-based recovery fellowship can present significant challenges for persons with substance use disorder regardless of whether they have been sober for ten days or ten years.
It’s Not All Bad News
Thanks to the ongoing efforts of recovery advocates, healthcare providers, government officials, and the like, legitimate policy responses are being implemented concurrently with the pandemic and potentially even long-term.
In states and localities hit especially hard by Covid-19 outbreaks, healthcare providers acted quickly to transition care remotely. This shift to telemedicine can also be attributed to legislators, especially through loosening of federal rules and certain changes to Medicare and Medicaid payments. Recovery advocates are also working to urge regulators to make some of the current flexibilities, such as those on telehealth, permanent even once the pandemic ends. In addition, proposed long-term solutions also include suspending certain waiver requirements for clinicians so they can provide greater access to buprenorphine through medication-assisted treatment.
In recent years, an unmistakable momentum has been building toward implementing policy that addresses the opioid crisis and working on getting people with substance use disorder the treatment they need. These efforts have been justified by the overall decrease in mortality rate—lives have undoubtedly been saved. Needless to say, we must maintain urgency and continue to build upon previous accomplishments.
At Romano Law Group, Rainer Boggiano is focused on representing plaintiffs in catastrophic injury matters, including wrongful death, negligence, medical malpractice, and products liability litigation.
Rainer earned his Juris Doctor from the University of Florida Levin College of Law in Gainesville, Florida and his Bachelor of Business Administration in Economics from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida.
While attending law school, Rainer served as a judicial extern at Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal and a legal intern for ADT Security Services at its corporate headquarters in Boca Raton. He graduated with multiple Dean’s List honors and was a Pro Bono Award recipient in recognition for completing 150+ hours of community service. Rainer assisted with the Pro Bono work on behalf of the Florida Association of Recovery Residences.
Rainer is active in several community organizations, having served as a volunteer for the 15th Judicial Circuit’s Guardian ad Litem Program, a tutor at the Mandel Public Library’s homework center, and a mentor for several local non-profit organizations.
Susan Ramsey is both an attorney and an RN. Ms. Ramsey’s professional experience began as a Registered Nurse in the Intensive Care Unit at Yale New Haven Hospital. While pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree, she was a counselor with the New Haven Rape Crisis Program. During her time with the Program, Ms. Ramsey counseled sexual assault survivors and performed seminars for local police departments, universities, and high schools.
During her time working as a registered nurse, Ms. Ramsey decided to attend law school. Ms. Ramsey graduated from CUNY Law School, and has practiced law in several different State and Federal Courts. She is a Florida Heath Care Risk Manager and a member of the Palm Beach County Sober Home Task Force. Susan is Pro Bono Counsel for the Florida Association of Recovery Residences.
Ms. Ramsey actively litigates cases involving catastrophic injuries and wrongful death on behalf of survivors, cases include injuries suffered by victims of professional
product liability and medical negligence.
 Note: Susan Ramsey (one-half of the Romano Law Nurse Corner) is also a contributor on these Substance Abuse Treatment Industry News blogs, however—impossible as it may seem—she was not the author of this compliment.