Staying in treatment for substance abuse in Pittsburgh during coronavirus | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Staying in treatment for substance abuse in Pittsburgh during coronavirus

In light of the city and state precautions in response to coronavirus, many meetings for Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous face considerable hurdles: meetings often require participants to be in close-quarters that don't permit a six-foot distance, and a number of its practices require hugging, holding hands, or sharing food.

As of Mon., March 16, around 50 Pittsburgh-area Alcoholics Anonymous meetings have been canceled, according to MaryLou Meighan, administrator for the Pittsburgh Area Central office of AA.

"That will go up by the end of the day," she adds.

AA has issued guidelines and recommendations, but Meighan says the decision is ultimately up to the facility or organizer of a specific meeting.

"Some groups have discussed making changes to customs at their meetings. Some examples have included: avoiding shaking hands and handholding; making sure meeting hospitality tables are sanitary; or suspending food hospitality for the time being," AA issued in a statement. "Regardless of group decisions, each individual is responsible for their own health decisions. Some groups have considered contingency plans in case the group is temporarily unable to meet in person. Plans have included: creating contact lists and keeping in touch by phone, email or social media; meeting by phone or online."

For a full list of canceled AA meetings in the Pittsburgh region, check the Groups Not Meeting page here.

Narcotics Anonymous has also canceled and postponed meetings in the area, which can be found here.

"While it is not our role to make statements regarding health issues, we encourage NA groups to discuss the situations you are facing and the options you have to provide safe environments for those who attend your meetings," NA wrote in a statement. "Groups may want to consider asking members to temporarily stop some of the common practices found at NA meetings such as hugging or shaking hands, or offering refreshments. You may also want to consider alternatives to 'circling up' at the end of the meeting."

If you're unsure whether your meeting is canceled or postponed, contact the facility or organizer directly.

For meetings held remotely online, there are several options:
Directly through Alcoholics Anonymous
Directly through Narcotics Anonymous
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
In The Rooms
Online Group AA
AA Online Meetings

For those without regular internet access, Meighan recommends calling her office at 412-471-7472 to help provide support and other resources. Pause a While is also hosting free conference calls for AA meetings. More info here.

Prevention Point Pittsburgh — a program that provides drug treatment, individualized risk-reduction counseling, health education, and other services to people who use drugs — is running on its normal schedule.

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