Q&A for Recovery Month with Karen Remy, Director of Greenwich House’s Chemical Dependency Program

Karen Remy is the Director of our Chemical Dependency Program (CDP). She says that some of the biggest challenges in the last year have been anxiety and isolation among those we serve.

“For people who struggle with substance use or mental health, one of the hallmarks of both can be isolation. Sometimes going to our program is one of the only things they do during their week. So we saw a lot of isolation, anxiety, and depression.” Remy said.

Since the onset of the pandemic, we have offered virtual options to ensure continuity of services. While telehealth has been a valuable tool to keep participants safe, it has presented its own challenges. “Connecting virtually can make it harder to understand the full scope of a client’s needs. If they are more comfortable with telehealth, is that because they’re afraid to leave their house? Is that because they have depression which keeps them in their pajamas all day?”

This Recovery Month, Remy points to the work of Certified Peer Recovery Advocates (CPRAs) in helping others in recovery, especially amid the pandemic. Peers are individuals with lived experiences such as substance use, recovery, mental health, and incarceration. They use their experiences and provide a unique type of support to engage those who are ambivalent about treatment or have become disconnected.

“[We have one client] who has so much anxiety about coming outside because of trauma and COVID and we haven’t been able to get her back to the clinic. [One day] she had a doctor’s appointment and we decided to ask her if her Peer could meet her afterwards in the community to connect and extend her time outside. Without the Peer, she would just run back in the house. The Peer provided support in a non-traditional setting. Peers serve as invaluable role models, confidants, and mentors.”

Since June, in-person operations have resumed with masking, social-distancing, and other health protocols. Remy added that other innovations have been necessary to accommodate clients, such as utilizing small rooms where a client can sit comfortably with a laptop and tune in to an in-person group meeting, in the event that too many people show up to accommodate social distancing.

If you or a loved one needs recovery support, please call 212-691-2900.