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Millions of dollars of CT opioid settlement money disbursed to diversionary, prison treatment programs

Ceremonies were held around Connecticut to mark International Overdose Awareness Day on August 30,2023. In New Britain’s Walnut Hill Park, Tom Fulton, with the Wheeler Clinic, affixed one of 1,464 white flags honoring the 1,464 people who fatally overdosed in Connecticut last year.
Mark Mirko
/
Connecticut Public
Ceremonies were held around Connecticut to mark International Overdose Awareness Day on August 30,2023. In New Britain’s Walnut Hill Park, Tom Fulton, with the Wheeler Clinic, affixed one of 1,464 white flags honoring the 1,464 people who fatally overdosed in Connecticut last year.

The Connecticut Opioid Settlement Advisory Committee approved funding for a pretrial diversionary program, for people with substance use disorders in Connecticut.

The Judicial Branch’s Treatment Pathway Program (TPP) was awarded $3.8 million for three years to increase access to medication for opioid use disorder.

People transitioning back into society after being incarcerated are 8 to 11 times more likely than the general population to suffer from an overdose after leaving prison, according to the Connecticut Department of Correction (DOC). In 2019, 55% of overdose deaths were people who had been incarcerated.

“The regions served now are Bridgeport, Waterbury, New Haven, New Britain, New London, Torrington, Danielson, Manchester,” said Nancy Navarretta, co-chair of the committee, and commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. “The core priorities are identified – reduce overdose risk and mortality and address social determinants and needs.”

TPP services include mental health treatment and support, medication assisted treatment, housing assistance, access to medical care, employment services, social support, and peer support by a recovery coach. Most beneficiaries are charged with nonviolent offenses.

Incarcerated people with opioid use disorder and people transitioning out of prison received an additional $416,650 to access FDA-approved medication through the DOC.

The program includes expansion of opioid treatment dosing rooms at correctional facilities.

“Continuity of care and services into and out of the correctional system assists in lessening the chances for illegal use of substances within the facilities, as well as decreasing the chances of overdose upon release,” Navarretta said Tuesday.

The committee allocated a total of $8.07 million – including $2.3 million for the distribution of 60,000 kits of Narcan (naloxone) — an opioid reversal drug — and $1.5 million ($500,000 this round as part of a three-year request) toward harm reduction programs for the purchase of clean syringes through the Department of Public Health’s Syringe Services Program.

In November 2023, the committee approved $500,000 to expand harm reduction supplies — those funds are fully spent, serving an estimated 6,418 people via seven agencies including the Connecticut Harm Reduction Alliance.

Recommendations for future funding include distributing Narcan via vending machines.

“If we were to add 10 vending machines in high population areas, we estimate that 167 overdose deaths will be averted over five years,” Dr. Scott Braithwaite, professor in the Departments of Population Health and Medicine at New York University, said.

The latest round of funding leaves the state with $111.6 million currently at its disposal for programs aimed at reducing the number of opioid deaths. Members allocated $4.5 million in the first funding round made after lawmakers and committee members expressed frustration at delays.

Sujata Srinivasan is Connecticut Public Radio’s senior health reporter. Prior to that, she was a senior producer for Where We Live, a newsroom editor, and from 2010-2014, a business reporter for the station.

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