Dear Reader, 

As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the country, the focus on behavioral and mental health care has followed behind it quickly. 

Stressors stemming from the pandemic can be triggering for people recovering from substance use disorders or addiction. Below are some local, state and national resources to help stay sober during the pandemic. 

In addition, we’ve included links to other stories that can help you maintain mental and behavioral health.  

If there are additional resources or services for mental health care not included on this list or if you want to share how you are taking care of your mental health, please email me at 

I will be postponing our #IAm1in5 Facebook Live Chats and office hours for now. 

—Camalot K. Todd 

The Associated Press reported that U.S. sales of alcoholic beverages increased 55 percent the week of March 21, with online sales up 243 percent, according to market research firm Nielsen.

New York mirrors that trend.

April ushers in national Alcoholism Awareness month, which aims to break the stigma around alcoholism. For many who struggle, they often underestimate how much they drink and overestimate their ability to control their consumption. 

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence created the public health initiative aimed to increase outreach and education in April 1987.

But common triggers like stress, grief, financial worries and isolation are fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, putting people in recovery in jeopardy of a relapse. 

The measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus are also shuttering in-person 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics or clinics for medically assisted treatment. 

However, different behavioral health organizations are adapting to how they serve the eight counties of Western New York. Some are moving towards telehealth, while others are still accepting patients but maintaining their social distancing. 

But implementing new delivery methods for behavioral health care doesn’t come without challenges including letting people know that services are available and set up the delivery systems for telehealth, said Howard Hitzel, president and CEO of BestSelf Behavioral Health.  

“Our priority really as an organization is to both make sure necessary services are available to the folks that look to us for their behavioral health needs — whether that be a mental illness or a substance use disorder — and at the same time keeping our staff safe,” Hitzel said. 

Below are resources at the local, state and national levels. This list is not comprehensive. 

  • BestSelf Clinics are open and accepting new clients, to learn more about how the organizations COVID-19 response, click here.
  • To view online meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous in the Buffalo area, click here.
  • Spectrum Health and Human Services of WNY also continues to provide services for substance use and mental health. To learn more call 716-539-5500 or visit their website.
  • Additionally, The New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS) operates a hopeline for those struggling with substance use. 
  •  Remote medication-assisted treatment (MAT) was approved amid the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing New Yorkers across the state and in many counties including Erie and Monroe to have access to buprenorphine, commonly used for opioid addiction, at home. 

Find a provider here.

  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services operates a free, confidential 24/7 hotline at 1-800-662-4357 for referral and information services in both English and Spanish. To learn more about the resources, click here.
  • On April 16, in honor of Alcohol Awareness month the nonprofit, This is My Brave, and Mental Health America are hosting an online discussion about the month

The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes about half of people struggling with addiction and substance use disorder who also have a mental illness.

Below are resources in WNY focused on mental health amid COVID-19. 

Spectrum News Buffalo aired several short, but informative stories with Crisis Services Executive Director Jessica Pirro. Crisis Services operates a 24-hour 7-day hotline at 716-834-3131 or visit their website.

Other organizations that offer support and resources in WNY include the WNY chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and Mental Health Advocates of WNY.