Connecticut will benefit from almost $6 million in federal funding for organizations combating the opioid addiction crisis. The Department of Health and Human Services is awarding a total of $400 million in grants to states around the nation.
In Connecticut, 17 community health centers will use their awards to expand their capacity for mental health services and substance use and disorder services.
Jim McCrae from HHS said because health centers often serve low-income populations with few other medical resources, they’re an important piece of the puzzle.
“Health centers increasingly are becoming the front lines for the opioid crisis," McCrae told Connecticut Public Radio. "Patients are walking through the doors that may have a medical condition, but after a brief screening it's recognized that actually their chronic condition is being exacerbated by either a mental health condition or a substance use disorder.”
He said the ultimate goal is to see more patients in recovery, expanding medication assisted treatment and making sure there are enough health care professionals to provide services.
To that end, UConn will also implement a grant from HHS to train more behavioral health providers and social workers who can intervene to help those who need addiction treatment services.
In total, Connecticut initiatives will benefit from $5.8 million dollars in funding. The federal grants were awarded based on a formula, with a 15 percent set-aside for the 10 states with the highest mortality rate related to drug overdose deaths.
Figures from a U.S. government survey released last week show some progress in the fight against the opioid addiction crisis with fewer people in 2017 using heroin for the first time compared to the previous year. But the modest one-year drop would need to be sustained for years to reduce the number of fatal overdoses, according to experts.
The latest numbers from the office of Connecticut's chief medical examiner potentially show a plateau in overdose deaths here. In the first six months of this year, 515 people died from drug overdoses. If that trend is maintained, fatalities this year would be around level with those in 2017.
Previous years' data show big rises in the number of overdose deaths every year since 2012.