Covid-19 restrictions left recovery groups fighting alone


While the physical and financial impact of Covid-19 begins to subside, the lasting mental health effects continue to cast a shadow of uncertainty.

A silent crisis unfolded for recovery groups on Long Island as they faced an unprecedented challenge as they found themselves locked out and cut off from their personal healing and recovery. The repercussions of these patients and organizations still grapple with the aftermath.

The drug crisis and the disruptive drug supply contributed to the complexity of the situation. The loss of many jobs and financial instability worsened existing mental health struggles. Treatment facilities faced delays in their openings, resulting in limited access to essential medical and mental health support.

Many individuals lost their jobs and faced severe financial insecurity. On top of that, treatment facilities that were supposed to open then faced delays, which further aggravated access to essential medical and mental support.

Jeffrey Reynolds, president and CEO of the Family and Children’s Association, FCA, shed light on the surge of substance abuse. Elevated rates in drugs such as fentanyl, xylazine, even cocaine, and methamphetamine highlight the link between mental health issues in the community and these alarming spikes. The mental health issues that follow the post-Covid era create challenges for both young people and adults.

“When we think about why that is, it’s not too hard to connect the dots with mental health conditions in our community,” Reynolds said. “Whether we’re talking about young people or adults, the mental health issues post-Covid are really significant.”

Although numerous recovery groups shut down when former Governor Andrew Cuomo imposed restrictions on gatherings in 2020, others adapted by adjusting to online platforms. However, in recent years, many meetings returned to real-time meetings, establishing self-help or professionally led support networks.

Organizations like FCA continuously provide support services to vulnerable community members, including children, families, seniors, and neighborhoods. They strive to operate predominantly in-person services for as long as possible, recognizing the value of direct human connection in the healing and recovery processes. FCA’s range of services includes care management, family treatment and recovery centers, harm reduction initiatives, and elder abuse support, extending a lifeline to those in need.

Reynolds emphasized the deterioration of mental health conditions within the community, where the widespread effects of drugs and alcohol have highlighted those struggling with anxiety, depression, and other mental health illnesses.

“While we will want Covid and this chapter to be over more than anything in the world, the reality is it’s not over for a lot of folks,” Reynolds said. “Many are still struggling and we owe it to those folks to make sure that there’s proper care.”

The emotional impact of the pandemic on young people will not disappear for another generation. As Long Island navigates the aftermath of the pandemic, it is essential to confront the mental health crisis head-on, united in the commitment to support those in need. However, Reynolds assures people that community resources remain available, encouraging individuals to take advantage of the support offered by organizations like FCA and beyond.

“We historically have forced people to jump through all sorts of hoops to get help for mental health conditions and substance use disorders,” Reynolds said. “Something moving forward that does include those traditional models of service delivery, coming to a clinic and you know, getting in your car and driving through here and that kind of thing. That’s probably important, but so are some of the other options.”