Jack Kramer / ctnewsjunkie
HARTFORD, CT – Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said his day started Tuesday the way it “has all too often” – by reading the obituary of a young person in his morning newspaper.

What he thinks of when he reads such obituaries, the governor said, is the person who died is another casualty of the drug epidemic that not only is plaguing Connecticut but also the rest of the country.

Malloy made those comments at The Village in Hartford, in front of an audience of state and local officials, community and business leaders and health care professionals.

The governor and others were there to announce that The Governor’s Prevention Partnership and The Village for Families & Children were receiving $2.35 million in grants from the United Health Foundation to combat the heroin and opioid epidemic in the city of Hartford.

The grants will fund separate, three-year initiatives with each partner. The partnerships are part of United Health Foundation’s city-based approach to provide resources to programs that connect communities to care, support whole-person health and build healthier communities.

Malloy said the current drug crisis is being fueled by several things, including what he referred to as the “cheap’’ cost of heroin and the large amount of opioids that “lie around” unused in homes after the patient who the medicine was originally prescribed for has stopped taking them.

Those unused pills are what often start young people on the road to drug abuse, the governor said.

“Addiction is a disease, and together we can prevent it,” Malloy said. “These programs will further strengthen community and family connections, and help teens develop into active and engaged members of our communities.

“I thank United Health Foundation for this investment to help improve access to care and address teenage drug use, and I applaud all the partners working to ensure our communities and families no longer struggle with the grave costs of this illness,” Malloy added.

The Village will integrate behavioral health and primary care services at two pediatric practices in East Hartford and West Hartford, which are run by the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.
The team of primary care doctors, psychologists and care coordinators will:

– address the range of physical and social aspects of each child’s health and well-being by using health screenings, increased parent education and referral processes to coordinate clinical care and connect families to needed community services, and;

– intervene early to prevent serious medical and mental health issues with local children and their families.

At the end of the three-year grants, The Partnership and The Village will issue a report with their respective results and provide details on how successful initiatives may be replicated.

Jack Kramer / ctnewsjunkie
“The future of healthcare is in integrating primary care and behavioral health services,” Galo A. Rodriguez, president and chief executive officer of The Village, said. “The funding by United Health Foundation will help us demonstrate how this type of integrated system will result in improved health outcomes for children, better quality of care, and short- and long-term cost savings.”

The Partnership will use the funding, in particular, to target substance-abuse issues in Hispanic young people. According to the 2015 Connecticut Youth Risks Behavior survey, Hispanic children have higher substance abuse rates.

In coordination with Family Life Education (FLE), a Hartford-based nonprofit family outreach organization, The Partnership will:

– create an awareness and outreach program for children, parents and the community focused on substance abuse among teenagers, and;

– introduce programs to identify and refer high-risk youth for support services.

“This multifaceted community education initiative will reinforce in-school awareness,” Jill Spineti, president and chief executive officer of The Partnership, said.

“While it is important to educate young people about the dangers of drug use, parents and other adults in the community can play a critical role in reinforcing anti-drug messages, identifying signs of substance abuse use before it becomes a more serious issue and helping families get the care their kids need,” Spineti said.

The grants were cheered by those who work in and around Hartford.

“By working closely with these community organizations to address health issues, particularly increasing drug use among teenagers, we are helping build a healthier Hartford,” Martha Temple, senior vice president of Optum Behavioral Health, said.

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin added while he is glad that money will be coming to his city to help combat the epidemic, the drug crisis impacts every town.

There are “many thousands of lives that are damaged and destroyed, families that are suffering in every community across the state,” Bronin said.

Bronin added: “This is a public health crisis that needs to be dealt with through a public health approach and that’s what exactly what is being announced today.”

The mayor added he is especially pleased that the funds will help target those whose first language is not English – something he said is “critically important, especially in the city of Hartford where 43 percent of our community is Latino.”

Malloy last week outlined his latest steps fight the drug crisis that killed nearly 900 people in the state last year.

He highlighted one in particular, on Tuesday, that being requiring electronic prescriptions.

Currently, prescribers can choose whether to prescribe opioid medication electronically or on paper. Malloy said going totally electronic will “reduce the potential for fraud and create a system of trackable data.”

Last year, Malloy signed into law a bill that places a 7-day cap on opioid prescriptions in an effort to reign in what many called the “over-prescribing” of painkillers.