Pubdate: Wed, 11 Aug 1999
Source: New Haven Register (CT)
Copyright: 1999, New Haven Register
Author: Esther Armmand


New Haven Fighting Back is a partnership of the city, the Robert Wood
Johnson Foundation and New Haven's neighborhoods. Our goal is to
measurably reduce alcohol and other drug problems and the social and
economic costs associated with substance abuse.

Over the past year, we have increased our efforts to promote public
policy at the local and state levels as part of a coordinated strategy
to reduce and prevent substance abuse. We have spoken at public
hearings. We are developing a local research arm. And, we're involving
the community in strategies to improve options for individuals
suffering from addiction.

As part of that effort, we helped organize a large group of people to
testify at a July 8 public hearing in Hartford sponsored by the
federal Center for Substance Abuse Treatment.

The hearing is the first of four to be held around the country as part of
CSAT's new project, "Changing the Conversation: A National Plan to Improve
Substance Abuse Treatment." Individuals were invited to testify on one or
more of five topics: closing the treatment gap; reducing stigma and
changing attitudes; improving and strengthening treatment systems;
connecting services and research; and addressing work force issues.

Among the topics addressed by those testifying from New Haven were the
unique treatment needs of mothers with alcohol and other drug
problems; the need for education of health care practitioners;
workplace issues; the need for more funding to address alcohol and
other drug problems; and alcohol and other drug treatment services for
the homeless.

Addressing one of CSAT's priorities, Fighting Back is developing a
research and evaluation component, the Community Epidemiology Work
Group, to guide all our strategies and to make relevant findings
available to the public.

The work group will use local data to identify alcohol and other drug
use patterns, trends in drug use, and emerging substances of abuse.
The information can be used by agencies to evaluate programs' impact
on specific problems, to allocate resources, and to provide early warnings.

After the four CSAT hearings around the country, panels made up of
experts in each of the five topics will produce a comprehensive report
that will focus on improving treatment.

Fighting Back, in collaboration with many other groups, worked hard in
the last General Assembly session to close gaps in service.

We supported parity in insurance coverage for substance abuse
treatment, which was included as part of the Medicaid/Managed Care
bill. "Parity" means that insurance companies must provide coverage
for mental illness and alcohol and other drug problems that is equal
to the coverage they provide for other diseases. The new law requires
this, but does not set standards for the extent of coverage. The law
adds licensed alcohol and drug counselors to the list of providers who
can be reimbursed for their services.

Another way we have worked to close the gap in services is to promote
the availability of transportation to treatment 24 hours a day, seven
days a week.

There is nothing more frustrating -- or more socially and economically
costly -- than having a person ready to go into treatment who can't
get to the treatment site, even when there is an opening. The "window
of opportunity" the individual experiences often closes in the face of
that frustration, and may not reopen for a long time.

Improving treatment is a major goal of Fighting Back. We have made
some progress, but much remains to be done.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Derek Rea