State budget cuts coming at worst possible time in opioid crisis

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NEW HAVEN & HAMDEN, Conn. (WTNH)– In the middle of the opioid crisis, the wait for help with addiction problems is about to get longer as state budget cuts start rolling out, and cut the number of substance abuse treatment beds in the state.

As far as the opioid epidemic is concerned, the state budget cuts couldn’t be coming at a worse time.

The state has made good on its promise to provide 700 doses of the overdose-reversing drug Narcan to New Haven in the aftermath of last week’s plague of overdoses and deaths in the Elm City, but state budget spending cuts for substance abuse programs across the region are just beginning and will represent a sharp curtailment of that kind of help.

The Judicial branch of state government doesn’t just pay salaries for judges and marshals.  Through the juvenile probation system, it has been paying for hundreds of substance abuse beds in non profit agencies. There now will be dozens fewer available in New Haven. “We were operating before this spike in the incidents with limited resources,” said New Haven’s Community Services Administrator Martha Okafor.

The city is scrambling to make the best use of the resources available, including the Yale-New Haven Emergency Department. Adds Okafor, “With the state cut due to the budget situation, it has impact on building the capacity we need.”

At the Children’s Center in Hamden, it means the complete shutdown of a successful program where young people, many opioid addicted, from all over the state, have been coming for the sixty day residential treatment.

“With the closing of that funding the twelve beds are gone, we no longer offer a residence substance abuse program,” said Dan Lyga, the CEO of the Children’s Center.  “We’re really worried about where these kids are going to go. I think the state’s worried too.  We heard for a while that the state budget was a very austere one, I think it’s hitting home, these cuts are happening across the state.”

Half of the funding for what was known as the “New Choices” program was coming from the Judicial Department and half from the State Department of Children and Families. Both hit by millions in spending cuts.

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