Date of Graduation

Summer 8-7-2020

Document Type

Project/Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has created new barriers for people suffering from mental illness and substance use disorders. From its expected major impact on mental health, social distance measures imposed worldwide are themselves risk factors for increased mental health problems, including opioid abuse. Since drug treatment for opioid use disorders is highly regulated by health authorities, people with opioid use disorders could experience difficulty accessing treatment, which should be considered an essential treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic. The accelerated transition away from in person appointments and group therapy because of social distancing calls for health systems and community collaborations and adjustments to clinical practice. This includes emphasizing mental health training for healthcare providers and frequent communication between providers and patients, increasing the flexibility of take home medications and access to overdose reversing medications, and leveraging technology through the use of telehealth and virtual support groups to optimize safety of medication treatment and increased support during this time. This paper explores mental health and substance use in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the challenges to accessing mental health and substance use services, and gives recommendations towards planning for the health needs of opioid abusers during future times of crises.

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