Malloy introduces Connecticut program to assist families with substance abuse issues (New Haven Register)

By Esteban L. Hernandez

HARTFORD >> Gov. Dannel P. Malloy joined the White House’s drug control chief Tuesday to introduce a project that will use private dollars aimed at reducing the number of children in state care to ensure families dealing with substance abuse can care for their kids.

Alongside U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Malloy introduced the Connecticut Family Stability Pay for Success project inside the Old State House with Michael Botticelli, White House director of national drug control policyWhite House Office of Social Innovation Director Dave Wilkinson, state Department of Children and Families Commissioner Joette Katz and Mayor Luke Bronin also attended.

Malloy said that since he took office, there’s been a 16.5 percent reduction in the number of children in state care, and more than 60 percent reduction for children in group care. “We believe in keeping families together and this announcement is about our next step to do just that,” Malloy said.

The project issues “social impact bonds,” which Malloy said will be used to expand substance abuse treatment services for families. “The Pay for Success project will support new treatment teams delivering family-based recovery to families in need,” he said.

The teams would consist of two clinicians and a family support worker who will visit families to “promote positive parent-child interactions, increase parental awareness and to help parents on their path to substance abuse recovery.”

The $12 million project is based on a “pay for performance” model that would return some investment to private donors, most of whom Wilkinson said are philanthropic investors looking for a “modest” return on investment, whose money would cover the cost of programs.

The state will repay investors only if there’s a positive outcome based on the assessment from the family-based recovery teams. The state’s goal is to save money in the long run by ensuring fewer children fall under the care of DCF while providing a positive outcome for them. According to Malloy’s office, DCF spends $600 million annually to address child abuse and neglect.

Katz said the project will help children who may end up in state care for prolonged periods.

“What we’re doing is we’re keeping those children from ever having to come into care in the first place,” Katz said.

The state has a program that assists families with children up to age 3, though Malloy said this new program will expand the age limit to 6, which will help about 500 more families in the state. The project will expand state services to cities, including New Haven, Middletown, Torrington, Waterbury and Danbury.

“This is not touch and go; we are going to be at this for a while,” Malloy said.

Botticelli said it’s no secret that the country is facing an opioid epidemic, though he added the state is a leader in drug disposal, services and access to nalaxone.

Blumenthal, who’s been vocal about addressing heroin abuse across the state, said the issue needs to be addressed with compassion.

“We gather in a historic place. I doubt the founders could have foreseen this public health emergency,” Blumenthal said.

The Pay for Success program is an example of one that can help at-risk families with a history of substance abuse, Botticelli said.

The project is modeled after a program developed at the Yale Child Study Center, which is a partner in the project. Yale helped develop the family-based recovery model along with DCF and Johns Hopkins University, child study center clinical coordinator Karen E. Hanson said. The model has been in use since 2007 and has already helped about 1,000 families, Hanson said.

“I think it’s a really exciting opportunity to not only serve more families in Connecticut that need to be served,” Hanson said.

The announcement for the new project was followed by a community forum discussing the opioid epidemic. Among the speakers was U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3, who called for more money to address substance abuse. She said she’s crafting a bill that would provide $1 billion annually to support community clinics helping with behavioral health and substance abuse patients.

“If we’re serious about mental health services, then we will increase the dollars for mental health services in this country,” DeLauro said. “We can’t afford to wait any longer.”

Reach Esteban L. Hernandez at 203-680-9901.