New Haven seeks $30,000 federal grant to combat opioid crisis

This story was originally published in the New Haven Register and was written by Esteban L. Hernandez 

NEW HAVEN >> The city’s Health Department could receive $30,000 in federal money to address the opioid crisis by providing more resources to local providers helping address overdoses and addiction.

Connecticut Department of Public Health spokeswoman Maura Downes confirmed in an email Wednesday that DPH is finalizing a contract with the New Haven Health Department to develop programs seeking to address opioid use disorders and reduce overdoses.

A public hearing held by the aldermanic Human Services Committee to consider accepting the grant is scheduled for Thursday. The hearing is a step toward a recommendation to the full Board of Alders, who must approve the grant. Downes said in an email Wednesday that the money comes from federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The money was awarded to DPH in March 2016, according to Downes.

City Health Director Dr. Byron Kennedy submitted the item for alders’ consideration in December. Kennedy did not return a call for comment Wednesday.

Grant paperwork submitted by Kennedy’s office provided by the city’s Office of Legislative Services said the money will be used to fund a collaboration with Yale New Haven Hospital to provide training to local providers. The training would focus on providers allowed to dispense buprenorphine, a medication assisted treatment option used to treat opioid abuse. It’s similar to methadone but more heavily regulated.

According to the paperwork, the program also would promote more substance abuse treatment programs and conduct an overdose mortality review to find gaps and “missed opportunities service” to help reduce and prevent opioid overdoses.

The plan also would encourage providers to register with the state’s prescription monitoring reporting system. This would entail working with medical school students to train them on using this tool.

Between January and June 2015, 444 people died of drug overdoses in Connecticut. New Haven had three opioid deaths in July, after experiencing one of the worst opioid overdose outbreaks in the country. A Yale-authored CDC report earlier this month lauded the city’s response to the overdoses with local law enforcement and hospitals.

The spike in overdose deaths is affecting the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, which announced Wednesday that it has lost full national accreditation due to a staff shortage and not enough room for bodies.

On Wednesday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s office said the state has seen a “dramatic increase” in the amount of unused prescription medications dropped off by residents at various collection boxes in 2016. The state collected more than 33,000 pounds of various medications last year, which Malloy’s office said is a 43 percent increase from 2015.

The efforts are part of the state’s prescription drug drop-box program, which is administered by the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection, according to the release. The state regularly works with state and local police departments to provide drug drop-off boxes.

“The increasing amount of unwanted medication that’s being collected at our drop-off boxes is a good sign that people in our state are taking the epidemic of prescription drug abuse seriously,” Malloy said in the release. “The misuse of prescription drugs is a nationwide problem impacting people of all ages and backgrounds, and we must do everything we can to tackle it.”

Reach Esteban L. Hernandez at 203-680-9901

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