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In-person recovery meetings are deemed essential by State during coronavirus, COVID-19

Many recovery meetings have been canceled or moved online during coronavirus, COVID-19 but in-person meetings are allowed under Gov's Executive Order.

MAINE, USA — The COVID-19 pandemic is presenting unique challenges for people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.

Social distancing and Governor Mills' 'stay at home order' forced many recovery meetings to be canceled or moved online but that's not always ideal.

"A lot of people say the cure for addiction is connection and community," said Cumberland County District Attorney Jonathan Sahrbeck, a huge advocate for addiction recovery programs.

Sahrbeck says COVID-19 has seen many support groups and meetings suddenly shut down.

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"To all of a sudden have resources dry up and not be available is really dangerous for a person in recovery. It means people are more prone to relapses and sometimes those relapses can be fatal overdoes."

Many recovery meetings throughout the state have moved to an online format like Zoom which Sahrbeck says is a great option but it's not the right fit for everyone.

"For some people in recovery having these face to face meetings when you meet in small groups are very valuable to people and has become part of their routine and part of their recovery"

A petition was recently started on Change.org asking Governor Mills and the state legislature to make in-person recovery meetings essential. 

Sahrbeck says he decided to look into it. He checked with state leaders and learned in-person meetings already are considered essential. 

"There is nothing saying these meetings can't happen it's just when they do happen they have to have CDC guidelines in place."

That means no more than 10 people, sitting six feet apart, for 30 minutes if it's indoors. An hour if the meeting is held outdoors.

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Sahrbeck admits it's a hectic time and there seems to be some disconnect on what is allowed and not allowed and what is deemed essential and what is deemed not essential. 

He says while staying at home is recommended during these uncertain times it's critical for people in recovery to know they have more than one option.

"Just getting that information out to people is key in this vital time because for a lot of people one relapse might be all they can take."

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Jonathan Sahrbeck says according to the Department of Economic and Community Development in-person recovery meetings fall within the mental health exemption of the governor's executive order--so long as they follow the CDC guidelines in regards to social distancing.

If you or someone you know need help, there are resources you can reach to start. Experts recommend:

  • 211 Maine by calling "211", texting your zip code to 898-211, or emailing info@211Maine.org
  • Office of Behavioral Health by visiting options on its website
  • MaineCare by dialing the Alcoholics Anonymous hotline at 1-800-737-6237, the Narcotics Anonymous hotline at 1-800-974-0062, or researching other hotlines

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