The generic pharmaceutical industry in Israel developed in response to big pharma companies boycotting Israel. Israeli drip irrigation developed in response to a pressing need to grow crops under intense water limitations. Retorno, a holistic therapeutic facility in Israel, adapted its outpatient support to the online world to support recovery during the pandemic. And, Retorno has now scaled the highly structured, intensive outpatient program for substance abuse to serve Jewish communities worldwide.
Never waste a good crisis
The pandemic has been especially difficult for people who struggle with substance abuse, anxiety, and other emotional challenges. For Jews and Jewish communities who were already struggling with stigma and misconceptions around alcoholism and drug addiction, the pandemic has been a triple blow. The team at Retorno has risen to the challenge, creating an intensive, affordable, online outpatient program serving Jewish communities.
Retorno already operated like it was a crisis because it always has been a crisis
In Israel, Retorno needed to scramble to adapt its community support network to meet social distancing requirements and the concerns of people in recovery. The Mifgashim network operates across Israel and had to adapt to online sessions as quickly as possible. Building on the lessons learned by providing support in Israel, Retorono was able to launch a holistic, Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) that works to provide highly structured care to English and Spanish-speaking Jewish communities worldwide.
The IOP provides recovery-oriented care that can help people with substance use disorders manage their symptoms, maintain long-term recovery, and live full lives in their communities.
Israeli innovation – building resilience and recovery
We are used to Israeli innovation in semiconductors, software, and cyber. The online IOP is Israeli innovation applied to mental health and substance abuse recovery. Unlike traditional meetings that often focus only on twelve-step type programs, the Retorno Intensive Outpatient Program program includes seven hours per week of support, including professional mental health support to address underlying emotional issues that might be powering addiction. The program is led by Gil Braverman, a clinical psychologist with twenty-five years of experience in addiction recovery.
The online rehabilitation program is much more affordable than traditional in-patient treatment and provides more intense support and structure than private therapy. The program seeks to disrupt the revolving door or addiction-treatment relapse.
Why the pandemic has fed substance abuse
The pandemic created a perfect storm for people vulnerable to addiction and addictive behaviors. Loneliness and anxiety increased, feeding the mental health challenges that often fuel substance abuse. In-person support groups or therapy stopped functioning altogether or became much more limited. Isolation closed off access to healthy coping mechanisms.
The pandemic exacerbated a challenge that has been building for decades. The United States has experienced a steady rise in overdose deaths since at least the 1980s. Then, the pandemic came.
Before 2020, drug abuse, overdoses, and alcoholism were already at historic highs. The pandemic took a crisis situation and made it worse, as indicated by spiraling numbers of overdose deaths. New York City, home to the largest Jewish community outside of Israel, recorded a 30% spike in overdose deaths at the beginning of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020. Overall in the United States, overdose deaths rose 28.5% in the first 12 months of the pandemic compared to the previous 12 months.
The surge in alcohol abuse and drug overdoses crosses boundaries and affects Jewish communities just as much as their neighbors.
The Retorno online rehabilitation program is an out-of-the-box effort to meet the crisis in a way that actually meets the needs of individuals and communities. Led by mental health professionals with significant experience in addiction recovery, and backed by data from Retorno’s large-scale adaptation in Israel, it looks like the program may actually be a positive disruptor in breaking the revolving door of addiction, treatment, relapse, and back to treatment.