March 18th through June 8th, our offices were closed due to COVID-19. This time was unprecedented for everyone at our agency and in our community, and while our offices were closing, our mission and our work could not stop.
In our counseling department, our direct engagement with clients had to continue. Those struggling with substance use disorder become more at risk when faced with additional stressors and isolation. NCADA maintained our ability to connect with clients via phone and through telehealth services. Counseling staff stayed in contact with other area providers so that we could make referrals and know what services were available in the community. Once we took the leap to virtual service provision, we quickly found that it allows us to engage more with some clients and is a viable option to help people in our community.
Community prevention and education work slowed in the early days of the pandemic, but once it picked up speed, it grew- FAST. Community Strategists stayed connected to local community coalitions and helped facilitate virtual meetings. Overdose Education and Narcan Distribution continued via webinars with staff delivering, mailing, and organizing Narcan pick up points for community members. Staff also quickly translated many of our professional development trainings, such as Ethics and Coalition on Addictions, to webinars. In offering webinars, we are able to provide education to more people in more places and still maintain our style of leading the conversation about alcohol and other drugs.
Unfortunately, as schools closed down and faced their own challenges, NCADA’s school-based prevention services came to a quick halt. While our educators missed their time with students, the work did not stop. Our educators began developing lessons for virtual platforms and different learning management systems so that we will be at the ready, no matter what “back to school” looks like in the fall.
The External Affairs team kept NCADA connected through social media and ongoing communication with our partners. The team produced posts, documents, and participated in countless meetings to make sure that our work was shared and able to continue. The team also led the organization’s participation in a very successful on-line fundraiser, GiveSTL Day, raising $7,200 on a goal of $2,500. Many events were rescheduled or reimagined to make sure safety and health were always the priority.
As Plato said, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” This has never resonated more than during the time of COVID-19 as we quickly adjusted to meet the needs of our staff, clients and community. A quick pivot is usually not our style as we want to make sure we have everything lined up and we want to do things “right”. But, a pandemic with local shutdowns did not afford us the luxury of time or being able to complete a plan. So in true NCADA style, we “made it work”, and our dedicated, talented staff approached each obstacle as an opportunity.