AP: Connecticut spent more than half of federal opioid funding on treatment
Unlike nearby states including Massachusetts, New Jersey and Vermont, Connecticut has spent more than half of its 21st Century Cures Act funding on opioid addiction treatment, an Associated Press analysis found.
The act allotted $1 billion over two years for states to fight the opioid epidemic, which killed 49,068 people in 2017, numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show.
In its analysis, the AP looked at how much each state had spent on treatment, recovery, prevention and administration as of April, which is when the first year of funding ended.
Connecticut, which had spent $4,535,320 of its allotted $5,500,157, designated 53.6 percent for treatment, 22.8 percent for prevention and 22.6 percent for recovery.
Massachusetts, on the other hand, spent 8.9 percent on treatment, 13.9 percent on prevention and 72.6 percent on recovery — an outlier among all states.
In an email, Massachusetts Department of Public Health spokeswoman Ann Scales said the state focused on recovery services because so many providers already offer medication-assisted treatment, which pairs therapy with medications that prevent intense withdrawals and cravings.
"Other states needed to prioritize support for medication-assisted treatment," she said.
Most of Massachusetts' funding went to the Access to Recovery program, Scales said, which offers vocational training, transportation and help with other basic needs to people in recovery. The program, whose goal is to prevent relapse, launched seven years ago.
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Diana Lejardi, spokeswoman for the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, or DMHAS, said Connecticut diversified its funding on purpose.
By increasing access to medication-assisted treatment, she said, officials hoped to reduce fatal overdoses in a state that saw 1,038 in 2017.
But DMHAS also funded prevention and recovery efforts such as a statewide media campaign called “Change the Script,” court and prison programs that encourage treatment and coaches who connect people with treatment, jobs, housing and advice.
Lejardi said a second federal grant — a two-year, $11,129,713 grant that began in September — is supporting 11 recovery efforts compared to just four treatment initiatives.
“We do most certainly recognize the importance of recovery,” Lejardi said. “We’re trying to get people into treatment … and help them while they’re in recovery. Fatal overdoses are about level this year, but the number is still very high. It’s still disturbing, and it’s still too many.”
United Community and Family Services, one of the agencies that got money from DMHAS to expand access to treatment, also has used other funding on prevention and recovery, Chief Operating Officer Cara Westcott said.
Westcott said the $60,000 her agency got from DMHAS brought medication-assisted treatment to three new locations of UCFS, which has offices in Norwich, Griswold, New London, Colchester and Plainfield.
But other funding streams helped UCFS employ a recovery coach and a social worker, Westcott said.
“The money that comes down, whether it’s federal or state, they tell us what they’re going to fund,” she said. “You just hope it matches up with what you can do and what the community needs.”