Liam was discharged from the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre’s substance use and concurrent disorders program on March 26.
The 22-year-old, whose last name Global News is not using for privacy reasons, was four weeks into a six-week inpatient stay when the program announced it was closing because of the new coronavirus outbreak.
The early discharge was an unwelcome shock, says Liam, but one he’s been able to adjust to because he has a supportive family willing to give him a safe place to stay. He’s more worried about the other people alongside whom he was receiving treatment.
“There are a number of people who have extremely unstable housing situations … and virtually no external support,” Liam says.
“One of the biggest parts of recovery, both in active recovery and people who have 10-15 years sober, is community support, and right now (with COVID-19), we’re seeing a total lack of support.”
The pandemic, with its uncertainty, anxiety and demands for physical distancing, time spent mostly at home and no group — including Alcoholics Anonymous — gatherings, puts a unique burden on people with substance use disorders.
The idea that in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, people struggling have lost “an essential, life-saving inpatient program” significantly increases people’s risk of relapse, Elliot Hudson wrote in a letter to hospital leadership expressing his concerns with the closure.
Hudson, who has relapsed several times in the last few years and whose story Global News chronicled over 18 months, was admitted to the program in mid-February. He was discharged from the hospital on March 23.
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