This edition of The Wright Medicine features guest columnist Maria Kolcharno, director of addiction services at The Wright Center for Community Health, who shares important updates about how the pandemic has impacted those in recovery — especially parents of young children — and offers reminders about resources that can help.

More than a year into the COVID-19 health crisis, we’re all feeling the strain of isolation, anxiety and stress. For people coping with substance use disorders, or SUDs, these feelings can be major triggers that challenge sobriety.

I’m privileged to work with a diverse team of care professionals who are specially trained and equipped to empower patients on their path in recovery. The Wright Center is home to one of Pennsylvania’s leading Opioid Use Disorder Centers of Excellence, and we offer a variety of community programs, medication-assisted treatment options and social support services to help individuals and families who need us.

To start, it’s important to know that if you’re struggling, you’re not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of June 2020, 13% of Americans reported starting or increasing substance use as a way of coping with stress or emotions related to COVID-19. Overdoses have also spiked in the last year, with more than 40 states — including Pennsylvania — reporting increases in opioid fatalities since the start of the pandemic. On top of the other risks arising with substance misuse, people with SUDs are both more likely to develop COVID-19 and experience worse COVID-19 outcomes, including higher risk of hospitalization and death.

While these statistics are concerning, the good news is that there are resources in our community available to combat these issues, and access to care has never been easier thanks to the rise of telehealth options. Though Wright Center clinics throughout Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wayne counties have remained open through the entire pandemic, we also seamlessly launched telemedicine, which was incredibly useful for our patients who are coping with SUDs and behavioral health concerns. These remote and virtual options for physical and mental health problems have become a lifeline for recovery efforts, especially as social distancing requirements disrupted support group gatherings, too.

The ongoing stress and uncertainty of COVID-19 have led to increased demand for mental health services, which are a critical part of recovery. Better access to telehealth helps people adhere to medication schedules, identify and respond in more healthy ways to stressors that have led them to opioid use, and address related conditions such as pain, post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression.

The Wright Center even offers a Healthy MOMS (Maternal Opiate Medical Support) Program, which tailors recovery efforts specific to families and moms-to-be who need specialized care and support through recovery, pregnancy and childbirth. After such a tough year, we recently celebrated an incredible milestone and welcome ray of light with the birth of the 100th baby into this program. Her resilient, sober mom is a testament to the power of the comprehensive, supportive care offered by Healthy MOMS as well as the strength of the human spirit, even in the darkest of times.

During the pandemic, cancellations of routine doctor visits have become all too common. Those and other disruptions to daily life hit those with SUDs hard. For those with children, there is the added worry about when schools will re-open and tending to family members’ needs while trying to work from home and maintain a sober lifestyle. As a Patient-Centered Medical Home, The Wright Center aims to make primary care, including mental/behavioral health and recovery services, as integrated and convenient as possible by offering all of our services under one roof.

And parents, don’t forget that April 24-May 1 is National Infant Immunization Week — a great reminder of the critical role vaccines play in protecting the health of our children and families. Staying on track with routine immunizations from vaccine-preventable diseases is more important than ever — and like all of our other great primary care services, you can make appointments for these important childhood inoculations at any of our clinics in Northeast Pennsylvania.

We will get through this together. Stay connected, stay healthy and stay hopeful.

For more information about the Healthy MOMS program or to schedule appointments for any primary care, behavioral health or recovery services, visit TheWrightCenter.org or call 570-230-0019.