MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The COVID-19 pandemic has hit those struggling with addiction especially hard by putting up more barriers to find help.

Licensed alcohol and drug counselors used to see 15-20% of people reach 90 days of sobriety. Now, it’s less than half that, just 5-10%.

WCCO shares the first-of-its-kind Minnesota program trying to change that with a team as close as a Zoom call away.

Jennifer Berheim is honest about her addiction battle.

“It’s been a struggle,” she said.

Growing up with two alcoholic parents, she started drinking at the age of nine. In the last 20 years, she’s been in and out of more than a dozen treatment centers. Then, this year’s pandemic meant Berheim lost her job as a kitchen manager, sending her again on a dangerous path.

“Being isolated in the house, have a liquor store down the street, it was just easier to stay home,” she said. “It seemed like fun at first, but then you realize the rabbit hole I’d gone down.”

Berheim ended up in the hospital in medical detox in July.

“It was really dark and deep and really, really hard to get out of,” Berheim said.

Dayne Bartlett is clinic supervisor of the Mobile SUDS team.

“[The pandemic] does make the path to sobriety very difficult to comprehend and to sustain,” Bartlett said.

The Mobile SUDS program is a first-of-its kind program comprised of peer recovery specialists and counselors who meet with someone seeking help to offer proactive support.

“We wanted a mobile team to work with them immediately, when they’re hospitalized, and after the fact,” Bartlett said.

The program launched two years ago, but through the pandemic they’ve noticed more of a need. Through it all, they’ve been able to pivot and still be there for those like Berheim.

Talking to someone in recovery themselves helped Berheim to re-focus. She’s now more than four months sober.

“People are there for you regardless if you think so or not,” she said.

The Mobile SUDS program is a partnership between M Health Fairview and the Minnesota Recovery Connection. It serves Ramsey, Dakota and Washington counties and has been referred 1,500 times to Minnesota patients in the last two years.

Drug Helpline
(844) 289-0879

Liz Collin