Connecticut unveils plan to help families with drug problems (AP)

By Susan Haigh

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A program to help hundreds of families struggling with substance abuse to remain together and stay drug-free is being expanded in Connecticut as new figures show a growing number of residents are dying from drug overdoses.

State officials, joined by representatives of the White House, announced Tuesday the launch of the "Connecticut Family Stability Pay for Success Project." The initiative, developed at the Yale Child Study Center, will last about five years and help up to 500 families involved with the state'sDepartment of Children and Families with children age 6 and younger who are at risk for abuse and neglect.

A team of two clinicians and a family support worker will make in-home visits several times each week and provide intensive support that focuses on improving parent-child attachment and helping the parents abstain from drugs. There is currently a similar program at DCF to help families with children up to age 3.

"We are tackling a critical issue, like substance abuse, while helping families remain together," said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, at an announcement held at theOld State House.

Figures compiled by the Chief Medical Examiner's Office show 723 people in Connecticut died in 2015 from heroin, cocaine or other drugs. Of those, 415 were heroin-related, while 107 deaths involved heroin and fentanyl, a synthetic opiate. In 2014, there were 568 deaths from accidental overdoses of drugs and 327 were heroin-related, while 37 involved heroin and fentanyl.

The new project announced Tuesday expands an existing effort by DCF to provide similar services to families with children up to age 3 and will reach into new areas, including Waterbury, Danbury, Torrington, Norwich, New Haven and the Middletown region. DCF Commissioner Joette Katz said the original initiative, which has involved about 1,000 families since its inception, has reduced the likelihood of a child being removed from a home due to abuse or neglect by 40 percent.

This latest effort is being funded in a unique way. The state is partnering with Social Finance, a private, Boston-based nonprofit organization that provides capital to help finance evidence-based initiatives to tackle social challenges. If Connecticut's new project meets certain specific goals, including a 40 percent drop in the likelihood of a child being removed, only then will the state have to reimburse Social Finance's investors the $12.5 million and a small rate of return.

David Wilkinson, director of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, said the president strongly supports states using such "pay for success" programs or social impact bonds to help address unmet social service needs in a smart and cost-effective way.