Addressing Health Equity During the Pandemic – Substance Use Disorders and COVID-19 – Raising Awareness About the Impact of Substance Use Disorders and Sharing Prevention Strategies During Substance Abuse Prevention Month
During these uncertain times, the stress of social isolation and other COVID-19-related life changes has led to or worsened substance use and misuse in vulnerable communities leading to health risks, mental illnesses and trauma. Whittier Street Health Center will be conducting events throughout the month of October promoting its efforts to stop the opioid epidemic that continues to plague its community.
Whittier Street Health Center launched its “It Takes A Village” (ITAV) campaign to strengthen its integrated system of community mobilization, overdose prevention, treatment and support for those in its neighborhoods with OUD who are at high risk of overdose and death. As a direct result of the ITAV initiative, Whittier revised its Opioid Prescribing policy and implemented an integrated and holistic team. This resulted in the drastic reduction in opioid prescriptions and an increase in patient education and promotion of non-opioid alternatives for the management of chronic pain, including mindfulness practices, yoga, acupuncture and physical therapy.
Whittier has seen an upward trend in the relapse rates of its patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, as prolonged isolation, fear, grief, unemployment, lack of childcare and uncertainty about the future put sustained recovery at risk for many during the course of the past several months.
“While the shift in focus in the media and the world has been COVID-19, we are aware that opioid use continues to be rampant and on the rise in our neighborhood. This is having devastating effects, as seen in the spike in HIV rates for persons who inject drugs. We need to be diligent in our prevention efforts by bringing awareness and treatment options into the spotlight through our It Takes A Village campaign,” stated Christine Pajarillo, LICSW, Vice President of Programs and Social Services.
Frederica M. Williams, President & CEO, stated, “As a leader in urban community health care and social services, Whittier is consistently utilizing clinical data, community needs assessment data and patient feedback to create and implement programs to address the high rates of mortality and morbidity rates in the communities served which are caused by a host of health, social and economic issues. Removing the stigma regarding mental health and substance use disorders and engaging patients in wellness and prevention strategies, especially during these uncertain times, should help to improve health outcomes and the quality of life.”
Whittier will host small-scale ITAV group activities/events throughout the month of October, with a mix of in-person and virtual programming including Narcan training, Psychological First Aid training for providers and a community event on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, from 12-1 p.m. highlighting patient success stories in their journey overcoming OUD.
The It Takes A Village (ITAV) community event will take place on Oct. 27, 2020, at 12 p.m. at Whittier Street Health Center, 1290 Tremont Street, Roxbury.