Eight Delaware organizations awarded $1.1 million in grants to combat opioid crisis

Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long addresses attendees during the announcement of $1.1 million in grants to fight the opioid crisis in Delaware. The grants, funded by Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, benefited eight organizations. (Delaware State News/Brooke Schultz)

DOVER — As community organizations accepted $1.1 million in grant funds to combat the opioid crisis in Delaware, Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long reminded attendees that this work requires collaboration.

“It’s all hands on deck. It is not one entity,” Lt. Gov. Hall-Long said during Thursday’s announcement. “Our government agencies have done some great things to address our fractured system … The help that we’re getting from the community, whether it be foundations, corporations or business is paramount. We cannot do this alone.”

Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield financed the grants that were awarded to eight organizations.

“We offer benefits in one shape or another to over 460,000 Delawareans. And that means that many of our members are likely affected by this crisis,” said Nick Moriello, president of Highmark. “And that’s what really prompted us to get involved and see what we can do to help and partner with many of the great organizations you’ll hear about today.”

Dr. Caesar DeLeo, vice president and executive medical director of strategic initiatives at Highmark, discussed the root of stigma.

He noted that in a recent survey, 80 percent of respondents indicated that opioid dependency is “mostly or somewhat the fault of the individual.”

“As though it was a moral failing,” he said. “That could be nothing farther from the truth.”

He noted that opioid use disorder is a “biochemical process that affects the brain.”

“It changes the anatomy of the brain, and it is not a choice,” he continued. “I’ve never known any young child early on say, ‘I think I want to grow up to be an addict.’”

Thursday’s announcement awarded organizations throughout the state money to hire more clinicians, expand youth programming, and target areas of prevention through recovery.

“It’s huge for us,” said Gillian Timon, executive director of Triad Addiction Recovery Services, based in Wilmington.

She noted that with the funds, Triad will hire an additional clinician, upping their staff from three clinicians to four. With additional grant funding from other sources, she hopes that that number can grow to six.

“The demand continues to grow,” she said, noting that the amount of clinicians they have — who take about 40 cases at a time — limits how many people they can help.

“This increases who we can serve,” she added.

Triad works collaboratively with some of the other organizations that also received grant funding, Ms. Timon said.

“It’s the only way we can optimize the funds. Unless we work together, we’re competing,” she said. “That makes no sense, as we all want to help the same population.”

As he addressed attendees, Dave Humes, public policy coordinator for atTAcK Addiction, invoked the Portuguese word that describes a feeling of celebration at the same time as a feeling of longing.

“I interpret this as when you both feel sadness and joy at the same time. We’re here with the sense of sadness, that opioid overdose deaths, the public health crisis of the 21st century, continue to rise and there’s a lack of safe housing for those overcoming the disease of addiction, particularly in Sussex County,” he said. “There is also the sense of joy, that this grant will save lives, providing more life saving medication, while also providing more safe housing for those in recovery.”

The funds will help NCALL, an organization that seeks to address affordable housing and sustainable development in Kent County, branch out into health.

“Health is an important part of residents’ lives and how we can improve communities overall,” said Karen Speakman, executive director.

The grant will allow the organization to hire an opioid outreach specialist, which will help raise awareness and prevent addiction.

“We’re thrilled to use this to expand,” said Chanda Jackson, community engagement specialist. “Through Restoring Central Dover, we see the needs. We’re hoping to expand and address those needs.”

Lt. Gov. Hall-Long said that these organizations are the “boots on the ground” matters to give people second chances.

“This is a team effort. Without this team in this room, and without the community and without corporations and foundations like Highmark doing what needs to be done to keep Delaware strong and healthy, it won’t happen,” she said.

The recipients are:

  • atTAcK Addiction — expand its programming for nalaxone training and replicate its New Castle County housing program in Sussex County to provide free homes to individuals in recovery.
  • Bellevue Cause Community Network — expand youth empowerment programs and overdose prevention projects.
  • Boys and Girls Club of Delaware — serve youth ages 5 through 18 to educate them about the consequences of drug use, provide access to intervention, prevention resources and encourage healthy lifestyle choices.
  • Friendship House — modify and expand its holistic approach to individuals in recovery to meet state’s current needs
  • Jewish Family Services — provide therapeutic support for family members and loved ones struggling with substance abuse and address the stigma surrounding substance abuse disorder.
  • National Council on Agricultural Life and Labor Research Fund — hire a full time opioid outreach specialist to educate the community and build partnerships with agencies to address the epidemic’s impact in Kent County and Dover.
  • Sussex County Health Coalition — implement strategies focused on prevention, community awareness and family support in Sussex County.
  • Triad Addiction Recovery Services — hire new clinical addictions counselor in response to steadily growing number of clients.