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Recovery During COVID-19: Tips for Women Returning to Work

Recovery During COVID-19: Tips for Women Returning to Work

U.S. Chambers recovery covid 19

One of my proudest accomplishments in 2019 was the opportunity to contribute my expertise to the U.S Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Sharing Solutions campaign. Over the course of several months, I embarked on a National Tour where I addressed business leaders on their approach to being part of the solution to combat the opioid crisis in communities hit hardest by the epidemic. The goal of the campaign was to raise enough awareness on the local level to reach national business leaders. This is an active undertaking I am making strides towards as a member of the Advisory Board for the U.S Chamber of Commerce Foundation today.

To help in this cause, it is imperative we bring awareness to populations disproportionately prone to substance use disorders, such as the increased number of working women, and share what businesses can do for women going through recovery while unexpected new life changes arise during the COVID-19 pandemic. Undergoing recovery during a time of uncertainty and isolation, feelings resulting from COVID-19, have posed new challenges for women who are experiencing significant life-changing scenarios we call the “new normal”. Whether it is balancing life at home with essential work, stresses with going into the office every day, returning back to the office after months working remotely, or actively looking for new work after a furlough or layoff, women in recovery are at heightened risk for relapse during this time.

Our focus on substance use disorders disproportionately affecting women is continuing to increase at a much faster rate in recent months due to the pandemic but has been on the rise according to this 2017 report from the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality (CBHSQ) of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). According to the report, in the United States, 8.4 million females misused prescription drugs and 19.5 million females aged 18 years old and older have used illegal drugs. Of these women surveyed, their reasoning for using illicit drugs in the past, or present, was to mask symptoms of depression, anxiety and fatigue (NIDA, 2019). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), increased fear and anxiety are among the top mental health concerns we are seeing during the pandemic.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), differences in sex and gender impact the progression that both women and men experience when using and misusing opioids. Results from the most recent 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health from SAMHSA highlighted that the percentage of people aged 12 or older with a past year substance use disorder remained stable from 2015-2019. Among the 20.4 million (both women and men) reported in 2019 with a substance use disorder, 71.1 percent were affected by alcohol use disorder, 40.7 percent an illicit drug use disorder, and 11.8 percent both an alcohol and illicit drug use disorder. On the heels of National Recovery Month, mental health organizations are working to bring awareness for those who are affected by a substance use disorder or know someone who is affected.

COVID-19’s negative impact on the average working woman and their family situations can further prompt a substance use disorder or relapse in women in recovery. According to the COVID-19 Impact two-thirds of parents have changed their childcare arrangements due to the pandemic, which has led to added stress in the home. This has increased the concerns for being let go from one’s job due to the inability to manage the balance between their children’s academics and their workload.

We’ve compiled a list of recommendations for business leaders who are looking for ways to foster protocols that make work transitions easier on their employee, all of which provide peace of mind during life’s stressful events:

  • Work with your company personnel to develop an action plan best suited for their level of comfort and openly discuss these protocols, make it visually apparent in the office, and periodically ask staff for feedback.
  • Provide consistency in the office. Brainstorm midday or mid-week breaks where employees can gather together, have open discussions or participate in mindful meditations as a group to help ensure everyone is in this together.
  • Encourage open dialogue for employees, especially with managers. Look for ways to support this dialogue so that everyone feels connected and welcomed to reach out with any concerns.

At The Bizzell Group, one of the ways we are taking an active approach to raising awareness of substance use disorders in women is by partnering with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Women’s Health (OWH) to support the Combatting Opioid Misuse Among Women and Girls: Prevention Strategies at Work. 18 grantees and 75 participants discussed projects in 12 states focused on preventing substance use disorders for girls ages 10 to 17, women of reproductive age, and older women.

The goal was to improve health care delivery by holding discussions around community engagement, pregnant and postpartum women and infants, youth education, training, and capacity building for the clinical workforce, pain management, and health IT and innovation. With the goal to bring awareness for women prone to relapse during this time, we need to call on the business community to develop protocols for their businesses to ensure the safety of women prone to turning to abusing illicit drugs and misusing prescription medication for challenging, uncertain or new life events.



Dr. Bizzell Featured in Mind Your Health for the Psychology Today Publication

Dr. Bizzell highlights in Psychology Today how to manage well-being in high-stress environments and how businesses can combat the opioid epidemic. A Midwest Economic Policy Institute study shows that the injury rate for construction workers is 77 percent higher than the national average for other occupations. Because of that high injury rate — and subsequent use of prescribed opioids to control pain — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says workers in the construction industry are among the groups with the highest rates of opioid abuse and opioid overdose deaths.

With Americans spending most of their time in the workplace, construction is not the only high-stress environment where opioids are abused. In its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the CDC points to miners, oil and gas extraction workers, and health care practitioners as other occupation groups with the highest proportional mortality rates due to methadone, natural and semisynthetic opioids, and synthetic opioids other than methadone.

American businesses are beginning to be creative about managing this crisis. An Indiana company had several job vacancies because it could not find any prospects who were able to pass a drug test. As a result, the company president decided to partner with a local treatment facility and hire former opioid abusers who had difficulty getting jobs after completing treatment. Another CEO pledged to take the stigma out of addiction by telling his workers to come to him directly for help because they should never have to suffer alone. These are just two of thousands of corporations figuring out the role they can play in fighting the opioid epidemic…one person at a time.

Read More: Managing Well-Being in High-Stress Environments


Dr. Bizzell Featured in Behavioral Healthcare Executive

Dr. Bizzell’s behavioral health expertise is highlighted in his recent article in the Behavioral Healthcare Executive, “Strategic Approach to Care Coordination Drives Better Outcomes in ER.” While coordinating this care is critical, it is often challenging—or even overlooked—in the complex, sometimes fragmented U.S. healthcare system.

Dr. Bizzell states he has witnessed first-hand hospitalizations that could have been prevented if individuals with mental health disorders had received appropriate support as they transitioned from different levels of care. When a patient leaves an emergency department or a hospital, there must be a plan in place to help them transition in a consistent and coordinated manner to any additional services and treatments they might need, whether these services address a mental health condition, a substance use disorder, or both.

Continuity of care must remain a top priority for our healthcare system, especially during this pandemic, as more people struggle to manage their mental health and substance use disorders. In contrast, emergency departments and healthcare systems may be taxed by COVID-19. Creating workable solutions to these complicated access and service delivery challenges can lessen the burden on our care teams, healthcare institutions, available resources, and, more importantly, save lives.

Read More: Strategic Approach to Care Coordination Drives Better Outcomes in ER


Dr. Bizzell Shares Insights on Substance Abuse in The Philadelphia Inquirer Article

Dr. Bizzell was featured in The Philadelphia Inquirer, the largest newspaper in the United States organized under nonprofit ownership. It has the 18th largest average weekday U.S. newspaper circulation and has won 20 Pulitzer Prizes. In the Philadelphia Inquirer article, Dr. Bizzell is included as a highly distinguished Substance Use Disorder Expert, shedding light on adolescent struggles with alcohol and drugs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The article talks about how pandemic isolation has some teens turning to substance use. Dr. Bizzell shares that social distancing measures and new access to help through telehealth and technology during the pandemic paradoxically have made some aspects of drug treatment and counseling easier to find.