TUPELO • The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence of Northeast Mississippi (NCADD) has seen an increased need for its services amid the coronavirus.

NCADD has been open since 1984 to provide information, education, help and hope to individuals and families in need of addiction services, including drug and alcohol testing, assessment and referrals, teen addiction awareness and intervention services.

NCADD closed to the public due to state stay-at-home orders in March, but executive director Dody Vail said the center set up a daily hotline to allow those in crisis or in need due to substance abuse disorders to call for support. Vail said a counselor is available anytime from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., but the hotline is open 24 hours.

“We have seen more crisis calls and more distressed people having substance use and dependence disorders during these past two months,” Vail said.

For NCADD, offering the hotline was the most logical way to make counselors available to handle crises at home. Counselors are able to do family counseling over the phone and may spend hours talking to a person in crisis.

Vail said they average 10 to 12 calls a day. A lot of people are suffering because they cannot attend support meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Al-Anon and others regularly. Online Zoom meetings are available, but Vail said they are not the same as in person meetings for those in crisis and that there is a “deficit” when they can’t meet face-to-face.

“The whole emphasis of meetings like AA, NA and Al-Anon is that you come through their doors, you can tell your worst stuff possible, you can be gut honest, and you get a hug and a cup of coffee and an invitation to come back,” Vail said. “That positive, personal support has been missing, which we believe and is shown increases stressors in the lives of these people who are suffering with substance abuse and substance dependence.”

The increased crisis calls are due to living in a “nation in crisis,” Vail said. As people must contend with losing their jobs, facing money issues or stay-at-home orders that can cause stress, Vail said those who are substance-dependent experience those tensions higher.

“In this disease of addiction that we deal with, any great change in a person’s life causes fear and distress, and they’re out of sorts,” Vail said. “When you’re talking about substance abusers or people caught in the web of addiction, you’re just going to have a natural increase in situations that can get quite dangerous.”

Despite the challenges COVID-19 presents to their work, Vail said it is important for people to still seek help if they are struggling during this time. Vail said they have used Facebook and radio to let others know treatment centers are accepting new clients even during COVID-19. However, she has seen a great number of people scared to seek treatment due to fears around contracting COVID-19.

“There’s a lot of treatment on hold, you might say, which again heightens the stress (for) at-home situations,” Vail said.

The center is also continuing its regular hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily via phone. During normal operations, NCADD does face-to-face alcohol and drug assessments on behalf of the courts, but due to stay-at-home orders and delays in civil court, the center has been limited in what it can offer. They still receive calls from social workers who rely on them for counseling and assessments for clientele.

NCADD will attempt offering face-to-face alcohol & drug assessments beginning May 6. Booking is available for May and future appointments, and the hotline will stay open indefinitely. While Vail hopes to be open to maintain regular office hours, she said the center would be waiting to see when it was safe to have office hours again. Once open, she said they will look towards implementing proper technology to sanitize the office.

People can support NCADD by making a donation to United Way of Northeast Mississippi or donating directly to NCADD by sending a donation to 200 North Spring St., Tupelo.

“Addiction problems are cunning, powerful and baffling. There’s no instruction manual per se that teaches a family how to deal with it,” Vail said. “We encourage people to call and reach out and get help when they’re dealing with this sort of thing in their individual lives.”

danny.mcarthur@journalinc.com

Twitter: @Danny_McArthur_

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