Delaware groups work to connect the dots between substance use and homelessness

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How can Delaware best coordinate its efforts to address the state’s high rate of substance abuse and overdose deaths while helping those Delawareans experiencing homelessness?

That was the basis of a meeting of community advocates, state leaders, and the state Department of Health and Social Services.

Housing challenges are a common issue for those struggling with addiction or those in the process of recovery, said Joanna Champney, director of the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health.

“Reports from our behavioral health treatment providers indicate that when people enter mental health treatment in Delaware, 13% were totally homeless at admission. For people entering addiction treatment in Delaware, 7% were totally homeless,” she said. “When we broaden the scope to looking at people getting treatment who are not just completely homeless and on the street, but we also include those who are housing unstable, the percentage unfortunately gets even worse.”

The correlation between housing and substance use disorder is evident, she noted.

Joanna Champney, Director of the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, eloquently discusses the health implications of substance abuse with the audience. (Johnny Perez-Gonzalez/WHYY)

According to her statistics, 67% of clients benefiting from services funded by the federal Statewide Opioid Response Grant faced housing instability throughout the fiscal year 2023.

As a result, DHSS rolled out the Recovery Support Scholarship program in March 2021, allowing treatment providers to extend housing support to individuals in treatment facing emergencies. Following this, DSAMH promptly assesses and approves the applications.

“Using the recovery support scholarship, an addiction treatment provider can fund a seven-day hotel stay, a one-time, one-month rental assistance, one-time security deposit or one month of Oxford House rent,” Champney said.

In addition to that program, the state received two grants from the Prescription Opioid Settlement Distribution Commission, totaling $700,000. An additional $1.2 million has been secured from the Delaware Criminal Justice Council through the Comprehensive Opioid Stimulant and Substance Abuse Site-Based Program, which was allocated explicitly for housing support.

Through the “Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness” or PATH, part of the allocated funds support street outreach and in-reach supportive services statewide.

“A total of 675 individuals were served with PATH services this past grant year. Of the 675 persons served, 263 were enrolled through Street Outreach Services, and 412 were enrolled through Supportive Service activities,” said Karen Record, chief of social determinants at DSAMH. “These clients received diagnostic screening case management and referrals including but not limited to temporary and permanent housing services placement, substance use treatment, mental health treatment, personalized social services physical health appointments, and healthcare insurance access.”

  • January 22, 2024
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