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Federal money to combat addiction funds treatment, programs, jobs in first year

Funding Congress approved in 2016 helped expand opioid addiction treatment, launch programs and create positions in the region in its first year.

The 21st Century Cures Act, intended to improve medical technology and innovation, allotted $1 billion for states over two years to fight opioid addiction and overdose, the latter of which killed 49,068 people nationwide in 2017.

In a lengthy effort, the Associated Press compiled data to see how much money was spent as of April this year, who was served and which agencies received funding.

Bucking a trend in which states that offer Medicaid to more people spent their funds more slowly, Connecticut used 82.5 percent of its $5,500,157 to serve 1,010 people, the data show.

Locally, Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, The William W. Backus Hospital, the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery, the Southeastern Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence and United Community and Family Services were among those that got money.

Dr. Peter Morgan, chair of psychiatry at L+M, said the hospital used its one-time, $50,000 grant to analyze how to launch an induction program for Suboxone, a blend of buprenorphine and naloxone that reduces the symptoms of withdrawal and allows a person to function more normally.

Morgan said Yale New Haven Hospital already has a successful program in which it introduces people in need to Suboxone in the emergency department.

“People who come into the emergency department may come in for a different reason, but if they are addicted, one of first things they’ll do when they leave is try to satisfy that addiction,” Morgan said. “If we can start treatment in the emergency department, it’s great opportunity to interfere with that pattern of relapse.”

Morgan said the biggest obstacle to starting Suboxone in the hospital is finding a place where the person can go afterward to continue the medication.

“That requires community providers to be willing to accept patients they have not seen,” he said. In New London “there was no hesitation — the providers have been very helpful.”

Morgan said he and the team working to launch the program reached out to some providers, but other providers reached out to them. One even offered a 24/7 call line for patients discharged on the weekends or after hours.

Morgan said his team determined the hospital should be able to sustain the program with existing resources and hopes to launch it in the spring. 

“Getting the money — and the fact that the grant was out there — lit the fire to make it happen sooner than later,” Morgan said.

Cara Westcott, chief operating officer of United Community and Family Services, a nonprofit health care provider, said her agency got $60,000 to be used from Oct. 1, 2017, through April 30 of this year.

In combination with other grants, UCFS used the money to purchase tablets and equipment, train staff on how to recognize and address drug addiction and bring medication-assisted treatment — or the practice of combining therapy with medications that prevent intense withdrawals and cravings — to three new locations.

Before the grant, 17 clients were in medication-assisted treatment — considered “clinically effective” by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration — at one location of UCFS, which has offices in Norwich, Griswold, New London, Colchester and Plainfield.

Now 55 people participate in the rigorous outpatient program at four locations, Westcott said.

“We were moving in that direction, but I think the funding from (21st Century Cures) and others springboarded it,” she said. “We wanted to do it well, not fast … and we are seeing a great success rate in terms of clients who stay in the program.”

In July, August and September, respectively, 85, 83 and 88 percent of people who started medication-assisted treatment with UCFS continued it.

“The medication-assisted treatment is so important because your brain chemistry changes when you use drugs,” Westcott said. “It’s not a want — it’s an, ‘I need this in my system.’”

The Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery, another grant winner, got $330,000 the first year and will get $430,000 the second.

Rebecca Allen, directory of recovery support services, said the money allowed CCAR to bring recovery coaches, or people who connect residents with treatment and then offer access to basic needs, advice and/or friendship, to six new hospitals.

Already operating in Manchester, Windham, Backus and L+M, coaches now are stationed in Danbury, St. Francis, Mid State, Day Kimball, Charlotte Hungerford and the Hospital of Central Connecticut.

Allen, who said she believes the program will continue in part because CCAR got funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration through at least April 2019, said the coaches had served 1,573 people as of the end of June.

Representatives of the Southeastern Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence and Backus hospital couldn't be reached to comment for this story.

l.boyle@theday.com

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