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Virtual Meetings Help to Keep Members on Path to Substance Use Recovery



Social distancing is making in-person group meetings impossible. See how organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous are going digital to help those in recovery.​

By Christine Barton, MSW, LCSW, Clinical Design Liaison, Behavioral Health

Many people in recovery from substance use disorder rely on in-person group meetings to keep them on track. But what happens when in-person groups are no longer possible?

That’s the problem facing New Jerseyans who regularly attend meetings from organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA). During the COVID-19 outbreak, social distancing guidelines have effectively banned any gatherings, and curfews could potentially limit popular nighttime meetings.

But staying on the path to recovery is especially important during these stressful times. To cope with the COVID-19 outbreak, some people are more likely to turn to alcohol or drugs – especially if they have a history of substance use disorder.

Fortunately, AA, NA and others have responded to these challenging circumstances by pursuing what so many other health care groups are doing: going digital.

These organizations are helping participants set up a range of virtual meetings – from phone calls to online chat rooms to video services using platforms like Skype or Zoom. Some of these programs have pre-scheduled meeting times while others, like hotlines, are available 24/7.

Check out the infographic below to see where to go to find a virtual meeting near you. Make sure to also check the websites of local recovery organizations, which list canceled meetings and provide information about changing in-person meetings to virtual ones.

Telemedicine options for substance use disorder

If Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey (Horizon BCBSNJ) members need to consult with a health care professional about their substance use disorder, the first step should be to call their doctor’s or counselor’s office to arrange a telemedicine visit. Horizon BCBSNJ is waiving all out-of-pocket costs for members who use virtual care through video or over the phone. Learn more about the telemedicine options available to members here.