5/18/20 - A Message from Secretary Hou: Substance Use Disorder Services and Community Bright Spot

Monday, May 18, 2020

Dear colleagues:

Today, I participated in a press conference with Gateway Foundation President and CEO, Dr. Thomas Britton, Heroin Addiction Recovery Alumni, Josh Blocker, and State Representative of the 8th District, La Shawn K. Ford, to emphasize the importance of continued substance use disorder treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Together, we discussed the importance of investment and focused solutions in communities disproportionately affected by the war on drugs, to address equity and to improve access to recovery and other services.

COVID-19 adds an additional layer of challenges for those struggling with recovery - recovery requires connection. In response, IDHS has gathered extensive digital recovery support resources so that people can connect virtually with the support networks that are crucial to their well-being and recovery efforts. Online meetings, calls, chat rooms - these work for many people already in recovery. You can access these services by visiting dhs.illinois.gov/helpishere and choosing "recovery", or by calling 1-833-2-FIND-HELP.

But we know that isn't enough. COVID-19 has hit people hard, and can lead to depression, anxiety, fear - many of the things that push people already in a fragile state of recovery to use again. Many people are alone and find easy solace in the escape that substances can provide.

If you or someone you know needs emotional support during the COVID-19 pandemic you can text "TALK" or "HABLAR" to 5-5-2020, under our "Call4Calm" program.
Within 24 hours you will receive a call from a trained mental health counselor to provide you support. Individuals who text will remain anonymous.

IDHS also supports harm reduction organizations, like Gateway Foundation. Gateway Foundation has a rich history with five decades of treatment and more than 1 million patients that have graduated through their programs. Gateway is today's IDHS Community Spotlight.

Gateway Foundation, Illinois

The Gateway Foundation has been providing life-saving substance use disorder treatment since 1968 including residential and outpatient treatment, medication assisted treatment, hospital diversion programs and jail-based treatment services resulting in a reduction in overdose post release.

On March 16th, Gateway Foundation transitioned the care of 1,000 individuals suffering from severe substance use from face to face outpatient therapy to virtual video-based counseling. Gateway also leveraged telehealth video services to facilitate intake and admission for new patients seeking care reducing the added risk of face to face interviews. Knowing that without treatment, patients were at risk of overdose and death, Gateway Foundation has continued to provide residential treatment and withdrawal management for those with the greatest need.

Gateway Foundation also modified their entire intake and residential treatment care model to identify and appropriately serve patients who are positive for COVID-19. To ensure that patients who are positive for COVID-19 obtain full clinical treatment in a residential setting, Gateway is working with an independent lab with the capacity to test for COVID-19. Gateway collects samples from all new clients and places them into an admission unit that has been set up in each site. If the patient is negative for COVID-19, the patient is transferred into a general treatment unit. If the patient is positive for COVID-19, Gateway moves the patient into newly developed COVID units they have established around the state (Northern, Central and Southern Illinois) to treat COVID-19 patients.

Among the many programs Gateway Foundation manages, Medication Assisted Recovery for clients involved in the criminal justice system is one of the most critical. Gateway quickly modified their services to accommodate changes to jail visitation rules as a result of COVID-19. Because of their efforts, clients who are involved in the criminal justice system continue to be referred to outpatient and residential services where screening is still allowed. Gateway provides these services in multiple county jails across Illinois.

I want to thank the incredible staff of health care heroes at Gateway who show up no matter what!


Grace B. Hou

Secretary, IDHS