Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Behavioral Health Consortium meets in person to discuss upcoming service changes

Delaware’s behavioral health consortium met in person for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic Tuesday, reviewing shifts in the state’s behavioral healthcare landscape.

Among those changes is the new 988 behavioral health crisis line, which will come online this Saturday.

And DHSS Associate Deputy Director of Research, Evaluation & Population Health Dr. Claire Wang says it's the first step in a larger project.

“In the short run, we are strengthening and expanding our lifeline infrastructure," she said. "We are not there yet, but we’re taking the steps to do so. Longer term, there will be work going into supporting and expanding someone to respond and somewhere to go.”

Homelessness and overdose deaths have risen statewide – particularly in Sussex County, where new efforts are underway by both private healthcare providers and state agencies to improve transportation and treatment access.

Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health director Joanna Champney says one addition to the behavioral health field will be an effort to respond to localized spikes in overdoses.

“Delaware is going to be implementing a PORT program: a post-overdose response team," she said. "We are following where overdoses are happening in real time and deploying teams to respond to those areas.”

Champney also notes that starting in November, Delaware emergency medical responders can begin the process of enrolling patients – namely survivors of overdoses – in medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders.

Delaware increased the number of healthcare providers certified to prescribe the opioid use disorder treatment drug buprenorphine by more than fifty percent but is still working to convince new providers to use those certifications.

The state is also piloting a program in Sussex County called Roundtrip to provide patients in addiction treatment programs transportation to and from medical appointments.

These moves come as Delaware prepares to begin distributing dollars from a settlement with opioid manufacturers and distributors in the coming year.

Paul Kiefer comes to Delaware from Seattle, where he covered policing, prisons and public safety for the local news site PubliCola.