$10M to better coordinate substance abuse care

By:  John Burgeson
CT Post

BRIDGEPORT — U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal on Friday announced that the state will be receiving a $10 million grant to better coordinate the treatment that substance abusers receive, an often overlooked aspect of the recovery process those in the field say.

The grant will promote integration and coordination between primary care services and mental health and substance use services, Murphy, D-Conn., said.

“This is a very important grant for us because it means that we’ll be able to step up our integrated care,” said Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, commissioner of the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. “Now we’ll be able to serve an additional 2,200 individuals statewide, and those who are treated for mental health and addiction will now be connected to a primary care provider as well.”

Murphy said that the grant helps correct mistakes made decades ago when it was thought that addiction and mental health services should be separated from primary care.

“There’s no practical reason why the primary care system should be physically separated from the substance-abuse system,” he said. “We did that in the 1960s, and this separation was a huge impediment to good care — forcing people to run all over town. And let’s not forget that a lot of people with addiction suffer from other health issues, so it makes sense to treat them under one roof.”

“I’m in recovery myself,” said Karen A. Kangas, a senior policy adviser with DMHAS. “This gives us the chance to integrate all of it together. With mental health and addiction, nobody seems to care. So this will allow us to put the treatment options together so people can be whole again.”

Announcement of the grant took place at the Kinsella Treatment Center on State Street Extension near the Fairfield line. Murphy made a second announcement of the grant in Waterbury later in the day. At both locations, he and Delphin-Rittmon conducted roundtable discussions with local professions in the fields of mental health and addiction.

“This will allow clients to, in effect, go in the primary care door and receive treatment for mental health and substance abuse,” said Moira Rizzo, Kinsella’s chief clinical officer.

She said that substance abuse and mental health treatment facilities such as Kinsella will be paring with Optimus Health Care for primary care services. Optimus has nine facilities in Bridgeport and four in Stamford. Kinsella serves 850 outpatient clients.

“This a population that’s been underserved,”said Michael Askew, Bridgeport recovery center manager of Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery, better known as CCAR. “People don’t understand the magnitude of the problem until it hits home.”

The funding was provided through the Mental Health Reform Act, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama in December 2016.