The Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) has impacted people all over the world for several months now and on many levels. Community organizations have been hit hard by isolation measures, quarantines and fear of contracting the virus. In order to continue helping people with their dependencies, Portage has adapted its services to ensure everyone’s safety.

COVID-19 is everywhere: in the media, on social networks, in every conversation. Its spread is a major source of anxiety for many people, and for good reason. The Coronavirus, as we have learned, has spread quickly through community environments. As made clear by the public health sector, social distancing is currently one of the most secure ways we have at trying to "flatten the curve" of this pandemic. I order to help stop the spread, governments around the world have temporarily shut down all non-essential businesses, cancelled major events, and asked people to quarantine. The crisis has had a major impact on community organizations, like Portage, which are based on mutual help, generosity and interaction among people. Because of its therapeutic community approach to recovery, Portage is greatly impacted by the Coronavirus.

The question now is how can we help people in need without meeting them face-to-face? The Portage team has lost no time in taking up that challenge! Changes have been made to residential centre activities to account for the suspension of on-site schooling. We have also made changes to the way we offer aftercare services, which are an essential part of the rehabilitation process. Everyone who completes their therapy at Portage can take part in the two-year aftercare program, which includes regular group meetings to help them maintain their sobriety and positive lifestyle. Given the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 crisis, Portage has decided to hold virtual meetings using the Zoom platform so that counsellors and former residents can stay connected. With the loss of social references such as school, the closing of businesses and the inability to see loved ones, it is imperative that Portage remain available to listen to and help people who are completing their social reintegration. This new approach has been very well received by our clients, many of whom expressed their gratitude for the continuation of our services. The online therapeutic community is a place for everyone to share their doubts and feelings as they seek to overcome their dependencies; it is an important source of support and is now available online at the click of a button. True to its values, Portage is maintaining its credo: ʺOnly you can do it, but you can’t do it aloneʺ.

Through its various programs, Portage provides services to people who are particularly at risk. The day centres that welcome new clients every day have had to adapt, as a result of the pandemic. Accordingly, all pre-admissions, aftercare groups and entourage groups are now conducted through videoconferencing.

The hard work and devotion of all healthcare workers is being acknowledged and applauded worldwide. Healthcare professionals, whether they are doctors, nurses, caregivers or counsellors, too often go unnoticed. Yet, they are the ones that seek to protect us against all types of illnesses. The current pandemic is a challenge for us all and we all have an important role to play. Isolation measures will not prevent substance abuse and the COVID-19 crisis will not stop Portage from fulfilling its mission of helping people with substance issues. Our counsellors will continue to be there for those who struggle with dependencies so that they are not forgotten in the midst of the current crisis.

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