Heroin overdoses have tripled in the past four years and treating the addiction has been the topic of a two-day summit in Hartford. The state is about to try something new to help families and save lives from this heroin epidemic.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy joined White House Director of National Drug Control Policy Michael Botticelli on Tuesday afternoon to launch "an innovative strategy to better serve families struggling with substance use."
""This is about providing effective treatment services early. It's a strategic approach in order to keep children with their families," Malloy said.
People from Washington DC have been in Connecticut. For two days, they've been rolling out new approaches to dealing with heroin and the crisis it’s created.
“I just found myself going deeper and deeper into the addiction,” Taisha Jefferies, who is a recovering addict, said."
Jefferies said she is thankful. She went through a drug treatment program and is living a better life. But many are less fortunate, heroin ruins them. It destroys their families and too often is deadly.
129 people a day die from overdoses. The problem has become so bad. Connecticut's governor said feels we must do things differently.
"We need to be smart,” Malloy said. “We need to be innovative and we need to be effective.'
The focus of the news conference was to develop a new strategy to better serve families struggling with the effects of substance use by expanding a tested, intensive, in-home program for families involved with the Department of Children and Families.
"The project creates an innovative public-private partnership to drive resources toward effective social services via outcomes-based contract," Malloy said.
"It's really no secret that we're facing an opioid epidemic across the country," Botticelli said.
Botticelli went on to say more people are likely to die from opioid overdose than a car accident. However , improvements are being made nationally, Botticelli said.
"We're making progress, but we still have a long way to go to expand treatment," Botticelli said.
Malloy said Connecticut has seen an "16.5% reduction of children in state care" since he took the office of the governor.
"President Barack Obama has set a very clear agenda, and we need to be clear and effective with opioid addiction," Malloy said.
Malloy announced the state will use the use Pay for Success bonds "to deliver better outcomes for children in CTDCF care."
"New recovery teams will allow us to reach new areas of the state and help children and families," Malloy said.
White House Office of Social Innovation Director Dave Wilkinson said they have made advancements, but not everyone affected by opioid addiction "has been lifted up."
"Connecticut has sent a goal of reducing substance use and abuse, and increase family stability through Pay for Success," Wilkinson said.
Connecticut is "showing mayors, governors, officials across the country that changes can be made and will happen," according to Wilkinson.
"It's hard to invest in preventive solutions, but Pay For Success can overcome barriers and pay for what works," Wilkinson said.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said this issue affects "every community in Connecticut" and "no community is immune to the opioid addiction."
"Law enforcement has united strongly, but we're not going to jail our way out of this epidemic," Blumenthal said.
DCF Commissioner Joette Katz said families in the program will work with a team for up to 18 months "to fix more than the negative impact of substance abuse."
"Children are best off if they can live safely at home and with their families," Katz said.
Connecticut is the first state to allow children to stay in homes with their parents.
"Parents receiving family based recovery have reduced stress, substance use, and remain with their children" Katz said.
Katz said the program will serve children up to 6 years old.
Following the 1 p.m. news conference, Malloy and Botticelli attended a community forum on preventing and treating prescription drug abuse and heroin use.
Mayor Luke Bronin said the opioid addiction is affecting people "across the country and across Hartford."
"It is heartening to see the room packed, and I'm sure already know how grave this crisis is opioid addiction," Bronin said.
Bronin said he is "proud" that Connecticut "allows the use of narcan to help with the opioid crisis." He added that this epidemic needs to be addressed with a partnership between law enforcement, DCF and law makers.
"This is an epidemic that has to be treated like a public health problem," Bronin said.
The approach focuses on working with families in their homes. DCF has about 4,000 children in their care and half come from homes where there is drug addiction.
Gary Mendell's son died from an overdose. He started shatterproof, which is a group that helps other parents.
“I was really haunted to learn that what happened to us is happening to so many families across this country,” Mendell said.
Some of these new initiatives will make it possible to help an additional 500 families.
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