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New substance abuse spending loses out in FY17 state budget

Delaware Public Media

$2.3 million Gov. Jack Markell proposed for new substance abuse initiatives budget didn’t make the budget cut this year.


The funding was earmarked to assist individuals struggling with severe addiction issues in Delaware.


Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf says $1.1 million would have gone to expand assertive community treatment or ACT teams.  Those new teams would have provided individualized services to 100 high need clients living in the community who would otherwise continue to cycle through various levels of care.  


“We know nationwide only 10% of individuals suffering from addiction actually go into treatment. Which also tells me that we need to go out to the individuals in a more assertive way. We can’t just sit here and wait for people to come to us," Landgraf said.


ACT teams provide wraparound services, such as a psychiatrist, substance abuse specialist, vocational rehabilitation specialist and more.


Cathy McKay, President and CEO of Connections – the largest mental health provider in the state of Delaware – says more ACT teams are needed, especially in New Castle County. She noted there’s usually an average of 100 people on the waiting list for those teams.


Connections currently runs six ACT teams: four of which are in New Castle County, although not specifically targeting individuals with substance abuse.


The additional $2.3 million was also intended to help expand day treatment programs and family support programs.

Landgraf says she has been impressed with a program for family members of individuals struggling with substance abuse through Ashley Addiction Treatment in Maryland.

"What I was envisioning for Delaware is to take that curriculum and kind of work that throughout the state, regardless of where the addict is in treatment - even if the addict is not in treatment. So how do we not only offer not only a level of support to these families, but also education," Landgraf said.


Landgraf added that there’s a common theme in the curriculum: comfort to families that they didn’t cause addiction, and that they can’t cure it or control it -- realizing that family members can blame themselves for their family member’s addiction.

And family support - in the form of encouragement to seek help and work towards recovery - can be a key factor in whether someone seeks treatment or not.

Landgraf says the failure to get this funding for programs like this is worrisome, with lack of treatment contributing to overdose deaths.

In FY16, Gov. Markell pushed for – and received – approximately $4.5 million from lawmakers to assist individuals struggling with substance abuse and addiction.  State Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf says those funds support development – and expansion - of different levels of care.


"Sober living, more intensive outpatient therapy, more residential beds for the residential treatment facilities, services tailored to women and children so women don’t necessarily have to lose their children while they’re in treatment, as well as an additional detox which is now in Harrington," Landgraf said.


Landgraf says the failure to get that funding is worrisome, with lack of treatment contributing to overdose deaths.


"I think our numbers for overdose deaths in our year 2016 will be higher than what they were in 2015," Landgraf said.


Landgraf says she is meeting with her leadership on Monday to review her FY17 current operating budget to look at what can be done to leverage other available dollars to increase capacity.


She remains hopeful that Obama’s call to Congress to add $1.1 billion to support increased substance abuse treatment will be honored, providing an additional $4 million to Delaware.


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