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Conn. medics cross-trained as recovery coaches for opioid response initiative

New Britain EMS is coordinating with social services and homeless outreach workers for a new citywide campaign

new britain ems captain patrick ciardullo mct hartford courant

New Britain EMS Capt. Patrick Ciardullo said training paramedics to better understand addiction has been beneficial.

Photo/Dan Stacom, Hartford Courant

Don Stacom
Hartford Courant

NEW BRITAIN, Conn. — To better combat opioid addiction and homelessness, New Britain is launching a social services initiative to fight both problems while also doing outreach to at-risk teenagers.

Coordinators of several social service campaigns in the city came together Monday to say they’ll be working together closely to ensure people get the right help.

Ambulance crews are getting training to immediately bring in recovery coaches for people who overdose, and homelessness outreach workers will have new ways to quickly connect people with emergency shelter, officials said.

“I’m excited — now that Building Hope Together is part of New Britain Recovers, we can focus on the idea that someone can recover from homelessness,” Mary Floyd, coordinator of the city’s homelessness campaign, said at a press conference Monday.

“Someone isn’t a homeless person, but a person experiencing homelessness — someone who with housing, support and services can recover from that experience and regain some of what they’ve lost,” Floyd said.

Mayor Erin Stewart said the New Britain Recovers initiative can streamline how social service agencies, hospitals, private charities and the emergency medical service deal with people in need of help. Tighter coordination will also help secure new grants to offer more in the future, she said.

“This is now a one-stop shop that can provide services with a much more holistic approach,” Stewart said. “This is going to ensure that residents’ needs are met, gaps in service are filled and that the necessary support systems are in place.”

Bruce Baxter, head of the city’s ambulance service, said New Britain initiated a mobile opioid response team. The goal is to be sure a recovery coach or counselor follows up with every patient after an opioid-related 911 call, and all full-time paramedics have been cross-trained as recovery coaches to make that possible, Baxter said.

The new system also employs a grant-funded “recovery navigator” who keeps in contact with those struggling with addiction after their initial emergency has passed.

The idea is to create the best chance possible of steering people into treatment and keeping them engaged in recovery during the crucial early days and weeks.

The new system employs a grant-funded “recovery navigator” who keeps in contact with people struggling with addiction after their initial emergency has passed.

“They follow up with these patients at 24, 48, 72 and 96 hours, then one week, two weeks and three weeks,” he said.

In the first month, the team deal with 71 narcotics-related medical emergency calls. Nearly 40% agreed to share information afterward; of those, more than 20% entered recovery programs.

Capt. Patrick Ciardullo, an 18-year veteran of New Britain EMS, said the initiatives under New Britain Recovers are exciting.

“We’re connecting (with patients) and doing things in a way we’ve never done before,” said Ciardullo, who said new training about what people struggling with addiction experience is helping paramedics be more effective.

“I met amazing people with success stories. It really provided a tremendous sense of hope in the difference we can make.”


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