Addictions services offered digitally

Fewer intakes of new clients since the pandemic started

By Steve Hubrecht

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the way many facets of life operate around the Columbia Valley and throughout the East Kootenay, but many organizations — especially those dedicated to helping people in need — are doing their best to carry on. This includes East Kootenay Addictions Services Society (EKASS), which has been carrying on support throughout the pandemic for those struggling with addictions.

EKASS closed its offices throughout the East Kootenay on March 18, but has been conducting counselling services via telephone or video ever since.

“We are still able to provide services that way (digitally),” EKASS executive director Dean Nicholson told the Pioneer. “It has been a challenge for some of our clients, who really are not comfortable without that face-to-face counselling.”

Nicholson said the organization has had fewer intakes of new clients since the pandemic started, adding that’s likely because people either wrongly assume EKASS is closed or are not keen on the idea of digital counselling.

Distributing harm reduction supplies, such as naloxone kits or safe injection kits, has also become more challenging. “We’re still doing it, of course. It’s just a whole lot easier to do when you don’t have to factor in social distancing,” said Nicholson.

The Columbia Valley and rest of the East Kootenay are now more than a month into the social distancing, self-isolation and quarantining associated with COVID-19, but so far all the extra people figuratively and literally stuck isolated at home, many of them recently unemployed as a result of the pandemic, hasn’t translated into an increase in people accessing addictions services.

“We suspect that there may be an increase in substance use,” said Nicholson. “But we’re not seeing that yet, at least in terms of requests to us for service. But depending how long this goes on, that may change.”

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