Group seeks to use New London building for base of opioid rehab services

New London — A state-credentialed organization that provides addiction outreach services and operates several sober homes in eastern Connecticut is seeking city approval to use a Bank Street building as a base for its mobile opioid outreach team.

A-Cure LLC wants to use two vacant storefronts at 607 Bank St. for daytime administrative and rehabilitation services and to allow its emergency response staff to work in the overnight hours in a program called The Bridge, a resource during a time many overdose patients are left without a place to turn.

Services offered to people beyond traditional hours of operation are key to saving lives and bridging the gap to the services available during daylight hours, A-Cure Director Terri Keaton said.

Keaton said her staff is growing and the need for service is on the rise — as evidenced by the ongoing opioid crisis — making New London a good point of access for the organization’s emergency outreach team members. No clinical services are planned at the Bank Street location for the overnight hours.

“Think of this crisis. Sixty percent of the people dying (of drug overdoses) die in the middle of the night. Why? The population we’re serving are not on a 9-to-5 schedule,” Keaton said. “We have a mobile team we’ve created and we’re bridging the gap. We will be a warm handoff to service providers that operate during traditional hours.”

It also could help ease the strain on emergency responders, she said.

In addition to opioid overdoses, Keaton said there are plenty of people with drug or alcohol addiction being discharged from hospitals who are given contact for a service provider but forced to wait until those providers open for the day. Staff from A-Cure could be on hand at all hours to help coordinate a response.

“We’re connected with all kinds of resources ... we know where the open beds are,” she said.

While the main purpose of the new facility is to provide for administrative offices, Keaton said the organization also would look to sublease a space for independent counseling or therapy for individuals in recovery from their addiction.

She said the facility also would be used for training and education for professionals working in the field.

The Planning and Zoning Commission will take up the organization's application at its next meeting on Nov. 15.

The application has caught the attention of the New London Police Department, whose crime prevention officer, Ryan Soccio, wrote a letter of opposition to the application and said the facility “would create a recipe for crime and disorder.”

“New London is already home to a large number of crime-generating and crime-attracting entities; from pawn shops and liquor stores to homeless shelters and drug rehabilitation organizations, these facilities have statistically been shown to increase crime in the neighborhoods where they are situated,” Soccio wrote.

Keaton said she’s seen Soccio’s letter and called it a knee-jerk reaction, since the facility does not provide housing, medications and will not have individuals “hanging out” outside the building.

A-Cure is contracted by the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and manages 61 beds in transitional homes for men and women at locations in New London, Willimantic and Putnam. The organization also provides outreach, case management and coordinates services for individuals with addiction and mental health disorders.

“There’s such a need here and the agencies in New London collaborate very well,” Keaton said. “We’ve been doing the outreach here for years. We know the area very well and where the need is.”

g.smith@theday.com

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