Bethsaida receives $200,000 to launch substance abuse program for women

Norwich — Bethsaida Community, a nonprofit that helps women who are low-income, homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, has received a $200,000 grant to launch a substance abuse program first envisioned early last year.

We CARE, or Women Empowered by Community Aligned Recovery Efforts, aims to provide education, recovery coaches, inpatient or outpatient treatment and substance-free housing to 150 women over three years.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration grant also will help Bethsaida host addiction and recovery training sessions for about 500 community members a year.

Executive Director Claire Silva said her 31-year-old nonprofit is launching We CARE because of how many women die by overdose and how prevalent overdose deaths are among the homeless.

Silva said 1,086 women died by overdose in Connecticut from 2012 through 2017. At least another 137 died in the first six months of this year, new Office of the Chief Medical Examiner data show.

Overdose long has been the leading cause of death among Boston’s homeless, a 2013 study found, and overdose or drug use killed 103 of the 311 homeless people who died in New York City last year, Politico reported.

“I personally know four moms that have lost their children due to addiction,” Silva said via text message. “Parents should not experience that type of pain and loss.”

“WE CARE will create solutions,” she said.

Silva said Bethsaida will launch We CARE in October, with one project director and one coordinator handling the bulk of the work. The Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery, Community Speaks Out, the Southeastern Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence and United Community and Family Services will help Bethsaida with initial screenings, case management and long-term support for the participating women.

In its application, Bethsaida said it will ensure at least 50 percent of the women go through three or more sessions of treatments, find and maintain employment and secure permanent housing.

“We are excited to work with our partnering agencies to care for women who are suffering with addiction, and support their families,” Silva said.

Bethsaida, which provides transitional, permanent, low-income and recovery housing, helped more than 400 women and 191 children from 2010 to 2015, according to a news release from U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District.

Courtney and his office staff have worked closely with Kathryn Powers, Region 1 administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, to help eastern Connecticut communities combat opioid addiction.

“The opioid epidemic is an issue that deserves the attention of every level of our government,” Courtney said in the release. “A focused program like We CARE has the potential to make a tremendous impact on lives in our community and I applaud the dedicated efforts of Claire Silva to secure this critical funding.”

Bethsaida was among the nearly three dozen nonprofits Norwich Tax Assessor Donna Ralston ruled ineligible for tax-exempt status earlier this year for failing to file required paperwork.

The ruling prompted outcry from the nonprofits and led to a May forum about what steps could be taken to reverse it.

Ralston said Thursday she was doing the final review of Bethsaida’s tax-exempt status and would be discussing the issue with the agency’s attorney. Hours later, Silva said she had learned her application for nonprofit status was approved.

Day Staff Writer Claire Bessette contributed to this report.

l.boyle@theday.com

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