COVID-19 Tests Help Keep Residential Addiction Treatment as

|May 15|magazine10 min read

CENTER CITY, Minn., May 15, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- With the need for addiction treatment and mental health services growing amid the stress and anxiety of the pandemic, the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation has continued to provide essential care across the nation, thanks to robust safeguards at its residential care facilities and a major extension of telehealth services. Now, the nonprofit is elevating its safeguards by testing new patients for COVID-19 before they even begin residential treatment or move into a recovery residence.

"Testing is a real game changer for us and the people we serve," said Hazelden Betty Ford Chief Medical Officer Marvin D. Seppala, MD. "For both patients and our staff, there is more peace of mind knowing that new people coming in have tested negative. None of the tests on the market right now can provide guarantees, but the nasopharyngeal test we are using to detect the virus itself has proven far more reliable, effective and useful than other tests, and it provides a substantial new layer of protection for everyone at our sites."

When patients call Hazelden Betty Ford for help, many are now routed to virtual outpatient addiction treatment and mental health services, which launched in March—after a year of planning and piloting—as a new cornerstone of the organization's RecoveryGo telehealth solutions. It is the only outpatient option at this time, due to the risk of coronavirus transmission associated with the coming and going of patients engaged in traditional in-person outpatient care.

When people need a higher level of care than outpatient, they can go to one of Hazelden Betty Ford's residential sites. But they need a plan for getting home just in case they test positive for the coronavirus upon arrival or develop symptoms later. Incoming patients can bring documentation of a negative test obtained in the previous 72 hours, or get tested by Hazelden Betty Ford medical professionals and stay isolated in a single-occupancy room until the results come back, generally within 24 to 48 hours. If the test is negative, the patient can join other patients and begin treatment. If it is positive, Hazelden Betty Ford refers the patient to appropriate external medical services and provides alternatives so the patient can begin treatment virtually at home until it is safe to return for residential care.

"Our strategy is to keep COVID-19 out of our facilities, and that has worked well for our staff and the people we're serving," Dr. Seppala said. "Back in mid-March we stopped accepting patients who display any symptoms of COVID-19, and whenever patients develop symptoms after beginning treatment, we quickly help them transition to virtual care at home until it is safe to return. By taking those steps and now testing people even when they display no symptoms—and vigilantly following recommendations around personal hygiene, physical distancing, cleaning, disinfecting, and wearing masks and other protective equipment—we believe we have created the safest environment possible.

"We are grateful for testing and what it does to help us continue serving people at a time when so many are struggling," Seppala added. "With numerous reports and surveys indicating substance use and mental health concerns have increased sharply since the pandemic began, we are expecting a surge in the demand for our services."

About the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation
The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is a force of healing and hope for individuals, families and communities affected by addiction to alcohol and other drugs. As the nation's leading nonprofit provider of comprehensive inpatient and outpatient addiction and co-occurring mental health treatment for adults and youth, the Foundation has 17 locations nationwide, with expansive face-to-face and telehealth solutions and a network of collaborators throughout health care. With a legacy that began in 1949 and includes the 1982 founding of the Betty Ford Center, the Foundation today also encompasses a graduate school of addiction studies, a publishing division, an addiction research center, recovery advocacy and thought leadership, professional and medical education programs, school-based prevention resources and a specialized program for children who grow up in families with addiction. Learn more at www.HazeldenBettyFord.org and on Twitter @hazldnbettyford

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SOURCE Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation