Updated: March 04, 2021 10:46 PM
Created: March 04, 2021 05:19 PM
Essentia Health launched a free 24 hour substance use hotline Thursday that seeks to connect patients struggling with substance use directly to appointments for care.
"When someone identifies that they have a substance use disorder and they are at that point where they are ready to seek treatment, this is a line that can be used to get connected to treatment," Kelly Black, Essentia Health’s Program Manager for Opioid Treatment said.
The hotline hits close to home for Shandelle Friedman, a member of the Duluth & Cloquet Sober Squad.
"I am four years in recovery myself. I went to treatment through a referral from drug court and if it wouldn’t have been for legal intervention, I don’t know that I would have known what to do for treatment," Friedman said.
Friedman said she wished she would have had the help of a hotline during her journey to sobriety.
"I think that this hotline is super amazing," Friedman said. "It can be really difficult to know where you want to go to treatment and what's available."
Harriet Chambers, another member of the Duluth & Cloquet Sober Squad also understands the need for a hotline.
"I have almost two years clean. I'll have two years next month," Chambers said. "I think it will be helpful just to kind of get over that barrier of getting people into treatment because that seems to be the hardest part is to find a bed for somebody or even to find a phone number for a place that can take people at the very moment—especially with COVID going on."
Over the course of the pandemic, Black said Essentia has seen an uptick in patients being treated for substance use.
"We know that our chemical dependency treatment centers have had longer waiting lists and have seen an increase in the people also needing care," Black said.
According to the CDC, more than 40 states—including Minnesota saw an increase in overdose concerns over the past year. Unfortunately, Minnesota also saw a 30% increase in drug overdose deaths from July 2019 to July 2020.
Black hopes the hotline will help overcome barriers of stigma by encouraging people to reach out for treatment, as well as, barriers of transportation and finances by connecting patients to treatment facilities close to home.
“Substance use disorder is something that can be managed within the primary care setting—just like any other chronic disease—and so we wanted to make sure that we had a way for patients to directly connect with providers who are able to provide that care,” Black said.
Both Friedman and Chambers also hope to see the hotline help many and say that there is hope for those struggling.
"I lost pretty much everything to my addiction and what I have gained in my recovery makes everything that I lost look so much littler," Friedman said,
"Keep going, you know, even if you fall, get back up," Chambers said.
The number for Essentia’s new 24 hour substance use hotline is 833-677-1262.