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DHSS Launches START Initiative To Take Action Against Substance Abuse

As reported by The Pew Charitable Trusts, there is a troubling trend in Delaware:

“Overdose deaths in the state continue to rise, with more than 400 people dying in 2018. The state’s overdose death rate is now tied for fifth-highest in the country, mainly due to opioids, including illicit fentanyl. Unfortunately, evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD) is often out of reach for people in need. In fact, fewer than half of residents treated at outpatient facilities in 2016 for OUD received medication-assisted treatment (MAT), the most effective therapy; less than 1 percent of people in inpatient or detox facilities received this therapy during the same time frame.”

Even more troubling, as noted by WHYY, just 38 percent of Delawareans who are diagnosed with substance abuse actually receive treatment. “Of those people that make it to treatment, only 16 percent in the state of Delaware are making it to 30 days,” said Elizabeth Romero, director of the state Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health. “Sixteen percent is not enough.”

To address this problem, the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) recently launched its START Initiative.

Via Delaware State News, “DHSS’ Division of Substance Use and Mental Health (DSAMH) will increase access to care and treatment for individuals living with substance use disorder by fostering system-wide improvement based on a framework that measures client outcomes.” Also, DSAMH has “launched a new online treatment referral system called Delaware Treatment and Referral Network (DTRN) that allows Delaware health care providers seeking substance use disorder treatment or mental health services for their patients to make an online referral with one of 24 organizations included in the first phase. Additional addiction and mental health treatment providers will be included in subsequent phases.”

The START Initiative is expected to connect 900 new clients with state services through certified recovery peers who have struggled with addiction in the past in the first year. Additionally, the “new system of care ensures 24/7 support through certified peer recovery specialists who will meet with individuals suffering from addiction wherever they connect with the system – a hospital emergency department, a doctor’s office, EMS transport, a police encounter or through a family or self-referral.” After an individual has begun treatment, “peers will help clients to navigate and stay engaged in their own care. Peers also will engage family members as appropriate to discuss treatment questions, issues, needs, options and preferences. In addition, peers will connect pregnant women to existing programs that provide home visiting and prenatal care.”

“Under the START Initiative, providers will be required to track and report aggregate outcomes, including intake assessments, clinical progress and receipt of supplementary services. The first step in understanding that level of accountability came with today’s forum for treatment partners in which they learned about evidence-based practices and the need to improve the coordination of care.

Overall, the START Initiative has three key tasks:

  • Develop and maintain key partnerships with health systems, law enforcement, and first responders who regularly come into contact with individuals who have overdosed as a result of their substance use.

  • Through community partnerships, DPS will connect individuals to treatment within 72 hours of an overdose.

  • Offer community outreach to keep individuals engaged in treatment regularly and consistently.

The main goal of this initiative, however, is to decrease the number of overdoses by engaging individuals in their recovery process as easy as possible.

At DPS, our primary focus is to help individuals achieve their specific goals so that they can enjoy a more meaningful and purposeful life. We also believe that all individuals and families deserve the right to kind and compassionate care. With the START Initiative, DPS will be able to meet that goal by giving us the opportunity to better collaborate and engage individuals in treatment.

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