Reach NJ, the state's free, confidential addiction hotline is still taking phone calls from those suffering from addiction, anxiety and isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. But treatment providers are making some adjustments.

The spike in calls to Reach NJ was in the first week of April, but the number of calls is leveling off, said Valerie Mielke, assistant commissioner for the Department of Human Services' Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

If a call to Reach NJ is on behalf of a friend or a family member, Reach NJ will refer those individuals to New Jersey Connect for Recovery where the loved ones can receive information, speak to someone about addiction and help seek treatment.

A large portion of individuals who call are looking for treatment for themselves. The Reach NJ staff will speak with the person to try and understand what they're experiencing and their symptoms. Then they'll recommend the best course of treatment. For some, that might be detox. Others may need residential treatment. Some may need outpatient and intensive outpatient treatment. At this time, many of these people are able to receive such treatments and services from home.

The typical call volume to Reach NJ is about 3,400 per month. April calls have been a bit lower. But Mielke said Reach NJ treatment providers have made many adjustments in light of COVID-19 in wanting to keep everyone safe. Outpatient providers are still providing most of their services telephonically.

Reach NJ is operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, taking calls live. The hotline number is 1-844-REACHNJ.

Many adjustments have been made to allow providers to continue to be responsive to those they serve. Medicaid has made some adjustments in terms of what services can be billed, which now enables providers to provide services telephonically, said Mielke.

For individuals who financially qualify, there is a lifeline program available that they can access by phone. At the Department of Human Services, there have been adjustments made on how they contract with agencies to ensure that there's a cash flow that they can count on every month.

In addition, policy changes have been made related to the opioid treatment programs, most commonly known as methadone clinics. People can receive as many as 28 days' worth of methadone take-home medication. What that does is reduce the number of times individuals have to go out to the clinics to receive their medications, thus cutting down the risk of possible exposure to COVID-19.

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