Coronavirus means long lines, long wait times for those battling opioid crisis


COLUMBUS, Ohio — If patience is a virtue, then the patients waiting outside the Compdrug opioid treatment clinic say they’ve had their virtues tried this week.

New social distancing orders put in place to help quell the spread of the coronavirus have prompted long lines and longer wait times for those seeking methadone or suboxone treatment — drugs typically given to help curb addiction to powerful opiates.

Social distancing health orders have forced the facility to have patients inside the clinic stand six to eight feet apart, which has left many patients waiting outside in the cold or rain this week for hours.

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“Monday — I think I wasted a whole day here. I think I got here at 11 a.m. and I left at 4 p.m. or 5. It was crazy,” said Deborah Jackson, a patient at Comdrug. “I saw somebody wait three hours and just walk away because they were not even close to the front of the line. It’s not worth it to some people but others it really is, so — it just depends on who you are.”

Jackson said she’s been coming since January and said her visits to the Compdrug have helped her avoid other opiates, which she worried were sending her down a dark path.

As Franklin County has still struggled with opioid deaths — even in early 2020 — those in charge of this clinic say their services are vital, even in a time when a new emerging threat of coronavirus has slowed — or in many ways — stopped normal life practices as we know it.

“This is life-saving medicine for these patients and if they don't receive this medicine they will be very ill. They need to be here, they need to get their medicine,” said Alex Meyer, the chief operating officer for Compdrug.

Meyer said that they have had to make adjustments this week — including moving patients outside so that patients being seen inside can be treated and stay within social distancing parameters. But after several days of long lines, additional changes were made Friday — including requiring all staff to wear masks, handing out masks or bandanas to patients and allowing patients to be notified by text of their appointment time — curbing the long lines.

“It’s been hectic,” said Thomas Daniels who was waiting for his medical transport vehicle to pick him up when he spoke to 10TV News. “I’ve seen people wait 5 or 6 hours for their medication.”

Meyer said additional efforts are being made — some employees are working from home and they are trying to file exemption paperwork from some patients which would reduce their need to show up to the methadone clinic several times a week. While the previous maximum dose given to patients was 13 days, Meyer says they have increased that to a 27-day supply in wake of the coronavirus.

It is a war on two fronts — Ohio’s long fight against opioids now stands in the shadow of the emerging coronavirus.

Coronavirus: What you need to know

There are now 34,639 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ohio; 2,117 people have died from the virus and 6,264 were hospitalized, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Breakdown of Ohio cases by county >>

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

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