With growing concerns of COVID-19 in our state, many New Jerseyans have no outlet to vent their fears. State officials worry many will turn to alcohol or drugs for comfort, and those in recovery from addiction could relapse.

Valerie Mielke, assistant commissioner with that state Department of Human Services' Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services, said the division will continue providing guidance to substance use treatment agencies about how to safely provide services to their clients — even as they try to maintain social distancing protocols that reduce the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus.

Under statewide restrictions shuttering many kinds of businesses, health care services are allowed to continue to operate, though they're encouraged to use remote-care options like telehealth services where practical.

The Department of Human Services is also working with opioid treatment programs to provide them with guidance on how to continue to make available the medicine people use to help support their recoveries.

It is providing opportunities for individuals to take medicine home, and not have to come to the opioid programs every day, Mielke said.

The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has relaxed restrictions on the amounts of buprenorphine and methadone patients can take home at a time. It's told New Jersey to let licensed facilities provide 28-day take-home supplies of methadone for some patients.

“We are also having conversations with residential and outpatient programs to help them find ways to continue to provide support and treatment to individuals,” Mielke  said.

The idea is to identify and prioritize individuals who may be experiencing more acute symptoms and need additional supports, she said.

To find resources for treatment, Mielke said people can still call 844-REACHNJ 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Calls are answered live. Trained counselors on the phone will be able to respond to individuals and help them find ways to access treatment.

New Jersey Mental Health Cares, at 866-202-HELP, is another line for individuals to call, Mielke said. It's open 8 a.m to 8 p.m. every day of the week, and can help support those dealing with stress related to the COVID-19 outbreak and restrictions.

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