UCFS To Expand Services for Opioid Addiction Recovery

Local News
Tuesday, March 26, 2024
March 25, 2024 3:39 pm • Last Updated: March 25, 2024 6:26 pm
By Claire Bessette
Day Staff Writer

As a recovery coach for more than 60 clients at United Community and Family Services, Kerry Bilda might start his day in Voluntown, trek up to Danielson, head down to New London and then over to Colchester to check in with clients.

For now, Bilda, a professional social worker for nearly 30 years in eastern Connecticut, is the solo recovery coach for UCFS working with clients in the heath agency’s medication-assisted therapy program. He helps clients recovering from opioid addictions with daily life issues ranging from household budgeting, to grocery shopping and proper nutrition, to help finding jobs and coping with personal issues.

On some days, he could put more than 100 miles on his UCFS vehicle making rounds.

Bilda should be getting some help soon. U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, both D-Conn., announced Saturday that the congressional spending bill approved last week includes $335,000 for UCFS to expand its medication-assisted therapy program.

Michelle Melendez, UCFS director of substance use services, said medication-assisted therapy, MAT, uses the prescription drug Suboxone to help ease opioid cravings for people in recovery. The drug can come in the form of dissolvable film strips placed on the tongue or an injection that lasts 28 days.

“Our focus will be hiring a recovery coach who can help people get enrolled into medical insurance and to help with transportation,” Melendez said.

The agency has five sites for its medication-assisted therapy in Norwich, New London, Griswold, Colchester and Plainfield.

Melendez said clients first meet with a UCFS therapist, who will help connect with the person’s primary care physician and insurance provider and work with the recovery coach. If the person has no insurance, UCFS will help the person apply for Medicare or Medicaid.

Melendez thanked the Connecticut congressional delegation for supporting the grant application. In addition to hiring the second recovery coach, UCFS has plans to expand the MAT program by purchasing a second vehicle to help reach more clients in rural areas, such as northeastern Connecticut, where transportation and access to services is difficult.

UCFS also plans to hire a dedicated clinician to help people sign up for services and coordinate with the agency’s psychiatrist for medication.

The UCFS grant was part of $35 million in funding for Connecticut programs announced by the two senators.

“This funding package is full of big wins for Connecticut, including more than $35 million to make sure local organizations have the necessary resources to do what they do best ? serve their community,” Murphy said in the news release announcing the grants.