Recovery coaches say number of people reaching out for help via hotline is increasing

Coaches say they're optimistic that they're helping people navigate the hardships of the pandemic

MADISON, Wis.– Safe Communities recovery coach supervisor Kristina Vaccaro said she lost her close friend to an overdose during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“She was very close to me. She was in recovery and she experienced a relapse and she passed away. She was really involved in all of our events and our overdose campaign that we do in August. She was always there and helping. So this is really tough.”

Vaccaro said her friend had been in recovery for several years and throughout that time, she experienced highs and lows. Although the pandemic can cause added stress for those in recovery and those who are currently using, Vaccaro said she will never know if the pandemic was her friend’s breaking point.

“These are members of our community,” Vaccaro said. “Young members of our community who are family members and friends. It’s heartbreaking.”

While Vaccaro may never know what led to her friend’s relapse, she does know that the pandemic is making many people in recovery consider using again.

Safe Communities recovery coach Rene Simon said the hotline they launched a week ago is “definitely” seeing an uptick in calls from those seeking help.

“My job isn’t to talk somebody out of using at any given moment,” Simon said. “My job is to offer them hope and the possibility that they can stop using if they want to. We don’t want anybody hanging up that phone without at least feeling like they’ve had a chance to connect with a person who is in recovery who understands what they are going through.”

Simon said the first thing she does when she takes a call is thanks the person on the other end because she knows that asking for help from a stranger is difficult.

She then talks with them about what their situation is and asks, “If you want to use right now, what is something else you can do instead?”

Simon and Vaccaro said showing compassion and understanding on top of providing human connection is crucial right now.

Although Simon said it’s heartbreaking to hear that there is an uptick in overdoses, “When we see an increase in opioid deaths, we are [also] grateful to be seeing an uptick in calls because we are able to help those people not end up a statistic.”

The hotline number for Safe Communities is 608-228-1278.  For more information, visit https://safercommunity.net/parent-addiction-network/signs-symptoms/

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