Novel financing plan infuses $11.2 million to treat drug-addicted Connecticut parents (Middletown Press)

By Kathleen Schassler

MIDDLETOWN >> With a fresh infusion of $11.2 million in philanthropic and private capital via a new financing framework, Family Based Recovery Services can reach up to 500 Connecticut families over a five-year-period.

Since “no one alone” can solve the nation’s drug problem, health professionals will deliver family based recovery plans to vulnerable families with the Connecticut Family Stability Pay for Success Project, officials announced Wednesday during a panel at the Community Health Center.

The project, being touted as the first of its kind in the nation, mixes nonprofit expertise, private funding and independent evaluation to provide in-home recovery support for drug-addicted parents throughout the state.

PFS is “helping to set a new bar for solving the nation’s complex challenges,” said Rafael López, commissioner for the U.S. Administration on Children, Youth and Families, on Wednesday.

“Families are devastated when we don’t support them on the front end; the number of lives (affected) is swelling,” he said.

Prevention is working, said Lopez, turning the spotlight on a handful of young mothers identified by first names only to protect their privacy who shared their experiences as “living, breathing examples” of FBR’s success.

“When (FBR) first came in, I felt so hopeless,” said Erin, a young mother in recovery. “(FBR) changed everything. I have my life back.”

The PFS project was launched through a partnership of the state Department of Children and Families, Family Based Recovery Services at the Yale Child Study Center and the Boston-based nonprofit, Social Finance, to promote family stability and reduce parental substance abuse for DCF-involved families.

FBR is an intensive, in-home clinical treatment program developed at Yale in New Haven that now will expand treatment to parents with children from birth to age 6 at risk for abuse and/or neglect, poor developmental outcomes and removal from their home due to parental substance abuse.

“I’m so so glad (FBR) is coming to other families,” Erin said, adding that clinicians connected her with other vital services, like a local diaper bank, food stamps and health insurance. Since substance abuse often involves mental health issues and trauma, “FBR treats the whole person,” she said.

The supportive approach offers a paradigm shift, altering the perception and treatment of addicted individuals. It’s “something we do with families” today, as opposed to “something that we do to families,” according to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who spoke about FBR’s success at the panel. “We’re making efforts to give families support they need.”

Pointing to growing challenges posed nationwide by an opioid epidemic, the governor said that, in some instances, “Maybe the best approach (to sobriety) is with a child.”

Social Finance brings capital investment to drive social progress, according to Tracy Palandjian, CEO and co-founder of Social Finance, a nonprofit financial intermediary that “connects the social sector with the capital markets by structuring and managing innovative investment instruments that both provide a financial return and generate meaningful social improvement,” according to the company.

Social Finance “promotes culture of data measurement and outcomes,” creating “uncommon partnerships in arrangement to strive around common purpose,” said Palandjian. “This is the new way of tackling 21st-century problems.”

Through the PFS model, the government repays private investors only if the program meets predetermined outcomes measured by independent evaluators. The program must demonstrate a return on investment based on specific metrics that benefit both individuals and society.

FBR helps parents to “rebuild and solidify relationships with their children,” said Commissioner Joette Katz, of the state Department of Children and Families. “We want to create more momentum to keep children with families” and fewer children in foster care or group settings.

“I had bad social anxiety,” said Nicole, a young mother holding her infant son. “When I saw all these people (at CHC), I thought I’m not going to be able to do this.” Instead, because of progress made with FBR, Nicole now is “able to work through these things myself.

“When DCF came into my life, I felt like it was the end of the world. I heard horror stories,” Nicole said. “It turned out to be the most positive experience and I’m glad they came into my life.”

Even though DCF has closed Nicole’s case, releasing her from the commitment, she continues to participate because she enjoy going.

“Just having someone to talk to ... I can tell them anything,” Nicole explained. “I don’t feel judged and will continue to use (FBR) as long as they let me.”