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Connecticut Initiative Aims To Stem Rising Addiction Trend In Teen Girls

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Connecticut’s Wheeler Clinic is piloting a new outreach program aimed at cutting the rate of opioid addiction among teenage girls. Wheeler just received a three-year, $300,000 grant from the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

The focus of the grant is to train health workers to identify girls who are at risk of opioid abuse, for instance looking for other risky behaviors or substance abuse around alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana.

Judith Stronger, who is vice president of prevention, wellness and recovery at Wheeler, said they aim to offer the training as widely as possible.

“To pediatric offices, to health care providers, to youth service bureaus, prevention practitioners," she said. "Anyone who has interactions with adolescent girls in particular, ages 12 to 18.”

While there’s overall less opioid abuse among girls of this age than boys, the rate of addiction is rising faster among girls.

Senator Richard Blumenthal visited Wheeler’s Bristol clinic this week. He said prevention is the smartest strategy.

“To break the stranglehold of addiction is so much more difficult and costly than stopping it at the outset,” said Blumenthal.

Wheeler aims to train as many as 4,500 people through this grant over the next three years. It hopes to offer what it learns in this pilot as a national model for tackling at least part of the opioid epidemic.

WNPR's Opioid Addiction Crisis Reporting Initiative is supported by Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network's MATCH Program.

Harriet Jones is Managing Editor for Connecticut Public Radio, overseeing the coverage of daily stories from our busy newsroom.
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