Young therapist talking to a man during therapy, surrounded by a support group

As a Patient Support Agent, you have to be prepared to help people at all times. Often, you are the first person that someone struggling with opioid or alcohol use disorder speaks to once they decide to get help for their addiction. Being a support agent requires you to think quickly and offer solutions to help patients, family members, loved ones, community partners and referrers make the best care decisions.

The COVID-19 pandemic boosted feelings of confusion, isolation and insecurity among many people, including many patients and potential patients interested in receiving treatment at CleanSlate. And while the coronavirus forced us to adapt the way we delivered care, it did nothing to hinder CleanSlate’s mission to save lives and help patients achieve the lives they want and deserve.

Understandably, many callers we spoke to early on were scared. Not only were they scared of the pandemic, but they were also scared of being left with no support in dealing with their disease. They also had questions about how the pandemic might affect their transportation to appointments, safety protocols in the centers and how they would get prescriptions. We answered their questions and in the event CleanSlate did not provide something they needed directly, we helped point them to services to help with whatever they needed.

At the call center, we worked extra hard to ensure patients and potential patients understood the telemedicine process and how to access their appointments remotely. The process was an adjustment, as patients were used to being seen in person, sometimes multiple times per week. At the beginning of the pandemic we received many calls from patients who wanted reassurance that their provider would call them for their appointment and we helped them download the appropriate applications to be able to access their care safely.

While we certainly saw an increase in calls about how to access appointments virtually, the call center also continued to receive many calls of concerns that are common among our patients, pandemic or not. Many of the people I speak to every day are patients just starting their recovery journey and they’re in need of help navigating the host of emotions that goes along with that.

I recall vividly a conversation I had recently with one caller who was inquiring about getting started with treatment at CleanSlate. I talked her through our process and what to expect and ended the call by thanking her for choosing CleanSlate; but more importantly, for choosing to invest time in her own recovery. The woman broke into tears and said, no one has ever said that to me before. I have tried to pursue recovery at other places before, but no one has ever made me feel like they actually cared about me.

The reality is, this pandemic will go away at some point. We will move on and go on with our lives, meeting future challenges as they come. But for so many people who suffer from substance use disorder and don’t get help, there will be no future. Being a patient support services agent, I take my responsibility to help everyone who reaches out very seriously. Every person who suffers from the disease of addiction is worthy of recovery and often they just need to be made to feel that they matter to successful pursue change. The pandemic hasn’t stopped me or the rest of my team from doing our jobs, it’s just made us more determined than ever to help those who need our services.

If you or someone you know needs help overcoming a drug or alcohol use disorder, contact CleanSlate today. Reach our call center at 833-505-HOPE or use the chat function on our website to speak to a patient support specialist today.

Margaret Skala

Margaret Skala is Patient Support Agent at CleanSlate.