Earlier this year, a National Institutes of Health (NIH) examination of death certificates in the U.S. showed a sharp rise in alcohol-related deaths between 1999 and 2017. Connecticut mirrored those numbers, and addiction organizations stepped up their efforts to reach those in need. Then came the pandemic. Treatment centers, support groups and the state were suddenly ordered to shut down. “We like to say the opposite of addiction is connection,” said Thomas Russo, spokesman for the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR).
Jose DeJesus pulls his silver minivan out of a parking lot in back of a row of historic houses on New Haven’s Congress Avenue. He points with pride to the flowers he planted around the lot. Then he grimly spins a commentary as he gives a tour of the surrounding Hill neighborhood. • There’s the John C. Daniels School, where parents are dropping off kids and where a man overdosed and died near a rear stairwell over the summer. • Across the street, there’s the APT Foundation clinic, where clients in recovery from opioid use come every morning for methadone.
Two programs that connect arrested veterans to treatment – rather than jail – report that many are getting their lives back on track. Some 81 percent of veterans in the program run by the Veterans Health Administration have not been arrested again. And one run by the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services shows a 36 percent drop in illegal drug use among its veterans and a 44 percent decrease in symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). “So many people are getting what they really need, which is treatment and not incarceration,” said Laurie Harkness, the VA program director. “It’s making such a difference in so many veterans’ lives.”
The programs, designed to help veterans with mental health and substance abuse problems, operate in courts statewide, where social workers reach out to arrested veterans to let them know about treatment options for PTSD, anger management, and addictions, among other illnesses.