HAMILTON, NJ -- It's about asking for help. That's the key piece of advice that City of Angels's founder Kevin Meara wants those struggling with substance abuse to know, particularly as many face their "demons" during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.   

Meara spoke with TAPinto Hamilton/Robbinsville on Tuesday about the additional challenge that coronavirus has had on those maintaining their sobriety or seeking to achieve it. City of Angels (COA) is a Hamilton-based non-profit organization that provides services such as interventions, recovery support, and other programs and activities free of charge, regardless of insurance coverage, for those struggling with addiction.  They also provide support for families faced with an addiction of a loved one. 

Meara said that their group, for instance, typically holds support meetings in a public building that has been closed to the public since March. It also makes it tough to run training meetings given the limitations on the size of indoor gatherings. 

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"Historically, we know the numbers of those facing substance abuse are going to increase," said Meara.  "The isolation is impacting people in the U.S. more than ever before. We are not made that way.  We are supposed to be interacting with one another."

"The opposite of addiction is community. But, we've lost community," said Meara who noted that isolation is often a sign of addiction or mental illness. "You don't know who's dealing with what inside their homes. People aren't around other people who would ask if they are ok or to say 'I need help'." 

Meara also noted that the root mental health problem is often "treated" but not healed so many "demons are deep seeded." He said the health care system has not yet caught up. 

On Monday, the state commemorated Overdose Awareness Day to remind the public of the dangers of substance abuse. Meara said that parents who lost a child to overdose live this "awareness day" every day. 

In Burlington County, City of Angels has worked with the Prosecutor's Office to tackle substance abuse.  Their recovery coaches, in fact, are involved and go out ot the scenes of potential drug overdose related calls. 

"Law enforcement is ahead of other community areas when it comes to helping those with addiction.  Don't discount getting help at the police department since officers are now trained as recovery coaches," noted Meara. 

Anyone who is currently struggling with addiction issue should first call 9-1-1 if they are facing an emergency health concern.  Help also can be sought through the State of New Jersey's REACH NJ program at -- 844-ReachNJ.  The state program provides a 24-7 hotline for those struggling with substance abuse disorders.  

Local help is available through the City of Angels hotline at (609) 910-4942.

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