COVID-19 may have temporarily detoured social workers from helping individuals battling addiction, but a two-day event is being held this week to get people back on the road to recovery.

Sponsored by Lebanon County Probation Services (LCPS), Pennsylvania Counseling Services (PCS) and six regional treatment providers, Road to Recovery is an outreach effort to get individuals struggling with addiction into treatment programs, according to Audrey Rakow, Acting Director at LCPS.

The event will be held this Thursday and Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at PCS’ Renaissance building, located at 618 Cumberland Street in downtown Lebanon.

The coronavirus pandemic provided a perfect storm that greatly hampered social workers from providing valuable services to their clients in need.

Although the county probation offices remained open during the pandemic, the agency did have difficulty handling their normal caseload, which averages between 1,800 and 1,900 adults throughout the year.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic there were a lot of limitations on services that were being provided throughout the county, our services and other social agencies as well,” Rakow said. “And we started to see an increase in the number of people who were dropping out of services. We started seeing an increase in people using drugs. So the thought came to me that people were really struggling during this time, for obvious reasons, and that we should try to organize an event once things started opening up again.”

Although the program will focus primarily on individuals on probation, anyone who seeks assistance will be given the help they need.

“We wanted to put together a post-COVID event to encourage people to initiate services or for those to come back into services by making contact with us,” Rakow said. “Because many times when people are using, they will stop reporting to us. We are trying to avoid getting to the point where people are overdosing or having to go back to jail. I just thought we could collaborate with other agencies to try and get people interested in helping themselves.”

Renaissance was selected as the host site to help clients feel at ease for aesthetic as well as practical reasons, according to PCS Executive Vice President Kimberly Ernest. PCS is a social services agency with 10 locations serving 11 south central Pennsylvania counties, including Lebanon.

The event will be hosted at Pennsylvania Counseling Services Renaissance building, located at 618 Cumberland Street in Downtown Lebanon. (Provided Photo)

Ernest said all four floors of Renaissance will be available to maximize social distancing and surfaces will be sanitized following each client contact, Additionally, all staff will wear masks and clients are asked to wear theirs or one provided by event organizers, Ernest added.

“Those individuals who are high risk or who are worried about transmission can certainly call in advance and schedule a telehealth appointment, which we have available throughout all of south central Pennsylvania, as well,” Ernest said. “So, if people are seeking to initiate services but still maintain distance due to fear of the virus they can utilize telehealth and completely minimize their risk.”

On-site evaluations are being offered because in-person interactions are more productive, Rakow said. The inability to conduct the normal number of one-on-one visits during the outbreak of the virus was a contributing factor in the reduction of client encounters over the past several months.

“It was difficult because our personal interactions were very limited, which forced us to make connections via telephone and via email,” Rakow said. “We had less ability to be proactive as opposed to reactive. People are much better served when they have personal interaction as opposed to telephone interaction.”

Reservations for Road to Recovery are not necessary but are encouraged. Pre-registered guests will be able to bypass the registration area and go straight into a treatment room, Ernest said.

Once there, the client will be assessed and then treatment options at one of six nearby treatment centers will be presented to that individual, according to Rakow. Clients are asked to bring their insurance cards, and those without coverage will still be evaluated for treatment options since outside funding sources will be utilized for the uninsured.

“Pennsylvania Counseling Services will have several people on-site that will be able to conduct drug and alcohol evaluations,” Rakow said. “Because we don’t know how many people will come out, they will have additional staff on stand-by in case there is an overwhelming turnout at one time.”

Rakow said some probation officers will be on hand to meet with people to simply touch base and so that individuals on probation who are referred for treatment can be tracked by the center in which they are placed.

“We want to be there so that the lines of communication are open and so people know that they need to report to our offices once their treatment is completed,” Rakow said. “We also want to touch base so that we can affirm that we are here to help.”

Childcare services for mothers who have given birth in the last two years as well as bilingual interpreters will be available for clients seeking services or for family members who come along with a loved one.

Rakow said one of the primary goals of the event is to get people addiction treatment without facing the threat of going back to jail.

Individuals on supervision with Lebanon County Probation Services who have a bench warrant will also be considered for their participation on a case-by-base basis, she added. Those individuals should contact Rakow at 717-273-1557, ext. 5111 to confirm their eligibility for the Road to Recovery program.

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James Mentzer is a freelance writer whose published works include the books Pennsylvania Manufacturing: Alive and Well; Bucks County: A Snapshot in Time; United States Merchant Marine Academy: In Service to the Nation 1943-2018; A Century of Excellence: Spring Brook Country Club 1921-2021; and Lancaster...


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