Feeling isolated….. lacking contact with others…….. fearing an invisible threat that could lead to serious illness and death……..unable to leave the house…… unable to access services or support society took for granted….. rationing of essential health care
That is the ‘new normal’ for populations all over the world…..
For many people experiencing addiction to drugs or alcohol it is the horrifyingly ‘same old normal’ experienced throughout their addiction.
Since the Prime Minister and Prince Charles were diagnosed with the virus it has been talked about as the great leveller, hitting indiscriminately regardless of power or privilege.
Well that isn’t true.
If you are in prison or are homeless it is harder to keep yourself safe from catching the virus
If you are poor it is harder to access food that is in scare supply
If you disconnected from family and friends its harder to get help and support and look after your mental health
If you have underlying health conditions you are at greater risk of death from the virus
And as those of us caring for people in treatment for drug and alcohol addiction we know that many people in our care have health conditions that put them in the high and extreme risk group, that many are homeless, that many are disconnected from family and friends, that many have struggled to cope on benefits for a life time ….. that they are amongst the people in our communities that are hit hardest by this crisis.
For them though the risk of death has been ever present, born from a reduction in drug treatment services to a critical life-threatening level.
This health crisis has layered vulnerability on an already vulnerable group, it has isolated already isolated people, it is threatening to erode the connectivity and support that has kept people safe in the most desperate of circumstances.
What has been inspiring to see is the commitment of the sector to work together to innovate and reach people who need our help. Those we are already connected with and those who we haven’t met yet.
And we are doing this silently because we know this crisis and newfound compassion for our neighbours probably hasn’t reached us yet. We are used to falling on the wrong side of decisions about how to use scarce resources. Its not the time to point to specific examples of this, just enough I think to say the coronavirus and the response is discriminating against the most vulnerable.
If there is anything we learn from this crisis I hope it is a reset of our social thinking about who we should help in our society and what we should value.
I hope we get a new social contract that reflects the people and the activities that are now keeping the country going.
The most vulnerable shouldn’t be taking the greatest burden but while they are, we will do whatever it takes to ease that burden and penetrate that isolation and keep people safe.