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Support group meetings move online as businesses and churches close over coronavirus

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Dan is a volunteer with Rochester Alcoholics Anonymous, or AA. Because the group is anonymous, he doesn’t share his last name.

Dan says he’s depended on AA meetings over the last 39 years of his sobriety.

"The meetings themselves are at the center of my recovery because I depend on them to stay in touch with the mindset of recovery," he says.

However, as facilities are closing to help mitigate the spread of novel coronavirus, AA, Narcotics Anonymous, and various support group meetings have been put on hold.

But people are being encouraged to join online AA meetings and online NA meetings through platforms like Zoom, Skype, and through Google groups, and connect with their sponsors when they need help.

That shift is being seen at many mental health support groups as well. Melanie Funchess with the Mental Health Association says while their organization's work depends on in-person visits, more of their services are being moved online. 

She says that now is a time of heightened anxiety for anyone whether or not they struggle with substance abuse or a mental health challenge.

"Reach out," she says. "This is the time to reach out and be a village. We don't have to touch each other to support one another."

To get through the stress and fear, she advises staying connected through technology, be it a video chat, a conference call, or a phone call. 

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