Waterbury gets $900K federal grant to fight opioid epidemic

New Haven

WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — A new program in Waterbury is making major progress in combating the opioid crisis. It got a major boost in federal funding on Monday.

The number of opioid overdoses and overdose-related deaths is increasing across the state, but not in Waterbury, where the Warm Hand-Off Program started last year. The hand-off is from first responders and doctors to support services.

“So, we have trained clinicians, responders, in this field that work for the health department,” Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary (D) said. “They are contacted immediately. In many cases, they respond directly to where the overdose is, and start the interaction with the overdose victim and their family, if they are able to do so.”

It may just be a coincidence, but drug overdose deaths in Waterbury dropped almost 25% last year, from 94 to 74.

“For the first ten months of the program: 354 overdose cases, 106 are in treatment, or harm reduction, or detox,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D) said. “That’s 30%. The nationwide average is 10%.”

Blumenthal came to Waterbury Monday to announce a $900,000 federal grant for the Warm Hand-Off Program. The hope is that the program will build on its own success and that other cities and towns will follow the example.

The grant will help trained recovery coaches and city police officers to provide harm reduction tools at the scene of overdoses.

“The work that they do on a daily basis is a testament to the efficacy of those kinds of approaches,” Aisling McGuckin, the director of health for the City of Waterbury, said. “Leading with compassion, making sure that we focus not just on the problem, but the people affected by the problem.”

Learn more about the Warm Hand-Off Program here.

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