In the wake of growing nationwide concern over the Coronavirus outbreak, we wanted to take a moment to address some of those concerns as they pertain to Cornerstone of Recovery and our sister facility, Stepping Stone to Recovery.

We find ourselves in a unique position: We’re a medical facility with a population of immune-compromised individuals who have come to us for addiction and alcoholism treatment. At the same time, our facility is open to visitors who come here for family visitation, voluntary aftercare groups, 12 Step organizations, recovery community meetings and other events that we’re honored to host.

Because of growing concerns over the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19):

UPDATE, 2 p.m. March 16

Until further notice, all following Aftercare groups and meetings are canceled, including:

  • 9 a.m. Aftercare on Tuesdays at Cornerstone of Recovery;

  • 6 p.m. Tuesday family support groups at Cornerstone;

  • 10 a.m. Aftercare on Wednesdays;

  • 6 p.m. Aftercare on Wednesdays;

  • 6 p.m. Parents In Empowered Recovery group on Wednesdays at Cornerstone;

  • the 6 p.m. Professionals Aftercare group that meets on Thursdays;

  • the family support groups at Stepping Stone to Recovery at 6 p.m. on Thursdays;

  • all Sunday family visitation at Cornerstone and Stepping Stone;

  • the Topside Group of Alcoholics Anonymous, which meets at 7:30 p.m. Sundays and Wednesdays in the Polly Bales Building;

  • and the Without Parallel Group of Narcotics Anonymous, which  meets at 7:30 p.m. Sundays and Wednesdays in the Polly Bales Building.

  • NOTE: The Dharma Recovery group that normally meets at 7 p.m. Saturdays at the Polly Bales Building has temporarily suspended its in-person meetings as well. 

“We need everyone to understand what we’re doing to keep the community safe and continue doing what we need to do to serve people,” says Cornerstone/Stepping Stone CEO Steve McGrew. “People are dying of addiction, and we need to get them into treatment, but at the same time, we have to protect our community. For the time being, we will reevaluate the situation every Monday and make adjustments to our plans based on the information we have on hand. Our goal is to continue to meet our standards of patient care by providing addiction recovery while doing the next right thing to keep our patients safe.”

Needless to say, the complexities of maintaining our open door policy while protecting the health, safety and privacy of our patients are immense. Our patients, of course, are our priority: They are the reason for our existence, and while the Coronavirus is certainly a concerning illness, the diseases of addiction and alcoholism are deadly. Keeping our doors open and our operation running smoothly and safely are paramount so that we can continue to offer a new way to live for those who are desperate for recovery.

So what are we doing to keep our patients safe?

coronavirusOur precautions begin before they even arrive. We’re not admitting anyone who shows signs of the virus or who may be at risk for infection from admitting at this time. These include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Recent travel outside of the United States or to affected areas in the U.S.
  • Recent contact with anyone infected with COVID-19 or influenza

We have placed posters about the Coronavirus — means of infection, methods of prevention, signs and symptoms — around campus to educate our staff and our patient population. We have hand sanitizer stations in all of our facilities, and we’re discouraging personal contact — handshakes, hugs, etc. — between one another. We’re emphasizing recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) regarding hand washing. And should any patient exhibit any symptoms — or Coronavirus or any communicable illness such as influenza, which we deal with every year — our medical and housekeeping staff take extra precautions, such as:

  • Early identification: Being proactive about possible illness within the patient community.
  • Quarantine: Sick patients are confined to their rooms, without a roommate, during their illness. All medication, meals and other essentials are delivered to their rooms. In case of a severe outbreak, we will adjust our room assignments to quarantine all cases to a single residence wing.
  • Housekeeping: Staff strips linens and cleans patient rooms multiple times a day, including wiping down all surfaces with a bleach/alcohol solution.
  • Increased medical monitoring: Nursing staff checks patients every two hours.

In essence, we follow Standard Precautions as laid out by the CDC, which “are the minimum infection prevention practices that apply to all patient care, regardless of suspected or confirmed infection status of the patient, in any setting where health care is delivered.” These practices include, among others:

  • Hand hygiene.
  • Use of personal protective equipment (e.g., gloves, masks, eyewear).
  • Respiratory hygiene/cough etiquette.
  • Sterile instruments and devices.
  • Clean and disinfected environmental surfaces.

We have also taken steps to re-educate all Cornerstone and Stepping Stone staff members on the use of personal protection equipment to prevent the spread of any communicable illness, and we’re working with the companies that provide contract labor to ensure that they don’t send any employees who exhibit signs of illness to carry out work on our campuses.

In addition, we are looking at measures to restrict all non-essential travel by company employees, as well as taking a thorough look on a case-by-case basis at the Therapeutic Leave and Therapeutic Absence requests by patients in our Intensive Outpatient/Sober Living programs. Obviously, the last thing we want is to prevent our patients from using their weekend pass privileges to spend time with family, but in the event their travel might be to areas experiencing a high rate of infection, we have to act out of an abundance of precaution to protect the patient population to which they would return.

However: We remain dedicated to our primary purpose, which is to provide unparalleled treatment for alcoholism and addiction. We remain in contact with referral sources from around the country and remind them that traveling to Cornerstone for treatment is, in fact, essential travel. Locally, we are assuring prospective patients to both Cornerstone and Stepping Stone that our increased efforts at prevention and sanitation will mean that the only concern they should have while in our care is recovery from their disease.

So what does that mean for our guests?

First and foremost, we’re asking everyone who comes to Cornerstone for any purpose to be good stewards of our mission and do not visit campus if you have any of the above symptoms. Meetings and conferences may likely be canceled, but other visitors are asked to be judicious in deciding to visit patients or attend recovery meetings at Cornerstone or Stepping Stone. Individuals in recovery are familiar with one of the tenets of the program — that one of the hallmarks of our recovery is that we become responsible, productive members of society. Part of that responsibility involves not exposing others, particularly individuals whose health is compromised by addiction and alcoholism, to any illnesses that might be of particular concern.

We will be asking all visitors to sign in at every facility on campus, acknowledging that they do not show signs or symptoms of Coronavirus or any communicable illness. Even when our family programs are resumed, we will screen family members who plan to attend and actively turn away anyone who reports symptoms similar to those of COVID-19.

This is a policy we anticipate keeping in place for the remainder of this crisis, and we want to thank you all for your patience and your understanding. Obviously, there’s a great deal of media scrutiny about COVID-19, and much of the concern stems from the fact that so little is still known about it. While we don’t wish to contribute to any sort of panic, neither do we wish to dismiss it as hysteria. As a result, we’re asking you to help us in protecting our most vulnerable population: the individuals who come to us for drug and alcohol treatment.

We want to encourage an open and honest dialogue about this developing situation, and we understand that you may have additional concerns. Please feel free to reach out directly to us, should you need to clarify any information or ask questions. We will continue to monitor this situation on a weekly, and in some cases daily, basis, and we will adjust our decisions based on the developing severity or solution to this illness.

Again, we are grateful for your support and your understanding, and we will continue to keep you updated as we know more and further refine our mission to provide much-needed treatment for addiction and alcoholism, which remains a very serious health crisis.

“Our thought is, the Coronavirus is very contagious, but to us, the chances of dying from the disease of addiction are a much worse scenario,” McGrew says. “That is a much more dangerous thing for them to have than the possibility of getting the Coronavirus. If they pass our pre-screening requirements, they need to come here for treatment.”