Connecticut health centers to get $2.5M for opioid abuse

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HARTFORD — Federal Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said seven Connecticut health centers will receive over $2.5 million in federal money to pay to improve and expand substance abuse services, especially for opioid use.

Officials with the department said the money will help Connecticut increase the number of patients that can be screened for substance abuse disorders. It will also help connect more users to treatment.

The money is part of a $94 million federal effort that is going to 271 health centers nationally. The department said it will support treatment services for approximately 124,000 patients.

The human services department estimates the number of unintentional overdose deaths from prescription pain medications increased almost fourfold from 1999 to 2013. Deaths related to heroin rose 39 percent from 2012 to 2013.

“The opioid epidemic is one of the most pressing public health issues in the United States today,” said Burwell in a statement. “Expanding access to medication-assisted treatment and integrating these services in health centers bolsters nationwide efforts to curb opioid misuse and abuse, supports approximately 124,000 new patients accessing substance use treatment for recovery and helps save lives.”

“Health centers treat some of the most at risk patients in the country,” said HHS Health Resources and Services Administration Acting Administrator Jim Macrae in the statement. “These awards position health centers to be at the forefront of the fight against opioid abuse in underserved communities.”

Research demonstrates that a whole-patient approach to treatment through a combination of medication and counseling and behavioral therapies, is most successful in treating opioid use disorders, according to the HHS.

In 2014, over 1.3 million people received behavioral health services at health centers, a 75 percent increase since 2008. This funding builds upon and leverages previous investments by providing support to health centers to improve and expand the delivery of substance abuse services in an integrated primary care/behavioral health model with a specific focus on treatment of opioid use disorders in underserved populations.

“HRSA’s innovative investment in the delivery of medication-assisted treatment for substance use disorders affirms the importance of behavioral health to overall health,” said Kana Enomoto, Acting Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in the statement.

Community Health Center, Inc. received a $379,167 grant for the communities of Middletown, Meriden, New Britain and New London.

Currently, CHC has 14 providers certified to prescribe buprenorphine as treatment for opioid-dependent patients . The grant provides for the training of 10 behavioral health providers to support buprenorphine prescribers.

“We estimate this funding will positively impact Middletown, Meriden, New London and New Britain by increasing patient access to buprenorphine therapy by more than 20 percent,” stated Mark Masselli, president/CEO of Community Health Center, Inc.  in a statement. “The communities we serve will see a difference and lives will be saved.”

Other recipients were Community Health Services, Inc. in Hartford ($325,000), Cornell Scott-Hill Health Corporation in New Haven ($406,250), Fair Haven Community Health Clinic Inc. in New Haven ($352,083), First Choice Health Centers, Inc. in East Hartford ($406,250), Optimus Health Care, Inc. in Bridgeport ($325,000) and Staywell Health Care, Inc. in Waterbury ($325,000).