Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $900,000)
Waterbury’s Warm Hand-Off Program is a newly piloted community-based project built on a strong public health-public safety partnership. The goal of this pilot is to reduce opioid overdose and overdose-related deaths in the City of Waterbury. This project connects opioid overdose survivors at the scene of an overdose or at hospital emergency departments to harm reduction tools, family support services, and treatment for substance use disorders, through the utilization of two full-time trained Recovery Coaches and Waterbury police partners. All first responders in the city along with Waterbury Health Department and other city agencies work collaboratively on this response. These agencies collect and analyze data on opioid overdose by GIS location, risk factors, response efforts and have contracted with an evaluation team at the University of Connecticut (UCONN) to assess the efficacy of this project. In the 10 months since the project launched, Waterbury’s program has responded to 354 overdose cases, and successfully linked 106 individuals, or 30% of survivors to harm reduction, detox, evidence-based treatment, and peer recovery support services. According to recent national data, only 10.3% of persons over age 12 with a diagnosable substance use disorder are engaged in any kind of treatment services in a given year, including self-help programs or care by a private physician. Waterbury’s 30% linkage to care is a proven success story to be expanded and improved upon.
To further enhance this project that launched in August of 2020, Waterbury will add one additional full time Recovery Coach in COSSAP funded Year 1, improving real-time response to overdoses during the heaviest volume of calls and across multiple shifts. The team will also enhance a targeted response to the highest risk overdose survivors - persons who have experienced multiple overdoses - to improve their chances of survival and linkage to care. In addition, a cloud-based data collection software service will improve the capture, management, and retention of secure program-related data. The UCONN evaluation team will further enhance their evaluative efforts to include qualitative data from treatment and recovery service providers and overdose survivors served by the program. Last, in COSSAP funded Year 2 & 3, based on evaluation results, the program will be modified and adjusted to continue serving Waterbury overdose survivors in the most effective manner possible to reduce loss of life, prevent subsequent overdose, and link overdose survivors and their loved ones to care and treatment services within the community.