“Since the mandatory quarantine began, I’ve been trying to make things better for my patients and others in need.

“I’m a counselor working in the substance abuse and dependency field. Substance abuse often occurs with other mental health issues so, right now, it’s critical that people like me can do our jobs.

“People have increased anxiety related to threats of contracting COVID-19, civil unrest, riots, unemployment and a lack of financial resources and a loss of their constitutional rights. These factors tend to result in efforts to self-medicate.

“Until March 23, we were in the office providing vital services to patients. [But] since the ordered quarantine we’ve been restricted to providing telehealth services. While that’s OK, it can’t take the place of the supportive services of face-to-face contact.

“We worked to make it pretty seamless, but the patients don’t have the benefits of a face-to-face interaction with a therapist and groups that are vital in helping them cope with the struggles of recovery. Also, other groups like [Narcotics Anonymous] and [Alcoholics Anonymous] are shut down completely, so my patients have lacked the support from those programs as well.

“So, the quarantine has taken a huge toll.

“We’ve seen an increase in suicidal ideation, domestic violence, substance abuse and marital conflict. Not being able to see patients face-to-face is a huge disadvantage. I know what to do and how to do it, so not being able to do what I know I could do is frustrating, especially as I know I could provide services safely and in compliance with current safety standards.

“I also do driver’s license restoration assessments for people who have lost their licenses. Many have completed their treatment and required assessments but are not able have the required video-based hearing through the Secretary of State to obtain their driver’s licenses. Not having a license hinders pretty much everything in their lives. Work, childcare, healthcare services are all much less accessible. We haven’t been able to do any assessment services because the Secretary of State is completely shut down and, to comply with the governor’s orders, assessments can’t be in person.

“The judges have been less than supportive of doing telephone-based, telehealth, Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime assessments, but they hold their hearings via video hearings. So they are in essence saying ‘you can’t do it but we can.’ If you’re providing a professional service through video chat, why are you saying I can’t provide a professional service through video chat, especially when it’s directly related to your service?

“It is very frustrating. I feel like I’m capable of doing what needs to be done but not allowed to use the available resources I’ve been using for 28 years to help people normalize their lives after making some bad decisions.

“I was in contact with Governor Whitmer’s office several times throughout the quarantine as well as with my state representative and my congressman. I’m advocating for the needs of my patients and trying to add some common sense to what seemed to lack any common sense whatsoever. The governor refused – not failed, but refused – to listen to the concerns of the people.

“She refused to listen to the needs and the wants of the people … that has been highly frustrating.”

Bruce Fry
Brooklyn, Michigan