New program announced for substance abuse treatment

From left to right: Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, White House Director of National Drug Control Policy Michael Botticelli and DCF Commissioner Joette Katz.

Kyle Constable /

From left to right: Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, White House Director of National Drug Control Policy Michael Botticelli and DCF Commissioner Joette Katz.

HARTFORD — Reacting to a spike in drug overdoses in Connecticut and the placement of hundreds of youths into foster care because of substance abuse – mostly by their parents – state and federal officials announced a public-private partnership that would offer 500 additional families substance abuse treatment.

The project, the Connecticut Family Stability Pay for Success, will require $12.5 million in private investment, which officials said Tuesday they are still seeking.

The new program would mean families in Danbury, Middletown, New Haven, Norwich, Torrington and Waterbury would have access to treatment not previously available and would have professionals visit them at home three times per week for six months.

Two White House officials, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin joined Department of Children and Families Commissioner Joette Katz for the announcement.

“We’re here to talk about innovative solutions to encourage businesses and the community to invest in evidence-based proposals to expand treatment,” said Michael Botticelli, White House director of national drug control policy. “It’s going to take everybody working together to stop this crisis.”

Malloy said the program is “a new approach” for Connecticut and the “next step” to improve DCF. He said programs like the one proposed have a 40 percent better success rate in stopping drug abuse than past efforts.

Bronin said he hopes the new program will yield “constant, consistent interventions.”

Research conducted by Yale University and the University of Connecticut on the approach – known as Family-Based Recovery – found it reduced the number of children removed from their homes and placed in the foster care system.

Under the program funding model, the private sector provides upfront funding. The government commits to paying back investors with interest if outcome targets are achieved based on an independent evaluation. If targets are not met, then the investors do not get repaid.

David Wilkinson, director of the White House’s Office of Social Innovation, said investors generally include large philanthropies and foundations, which expect to receive a 3 to 5 percent rate of return.

The model – known as Social Impact Bonds – aims to save the state millions by preventing youths from entering DCF custody, which is far more expensive.

The state’s child welfare agency has been under federal court supervision for decades for not providing children in need with enough of the services they require.

In his most recent report last month, court monitor Raymond Mancuso highlighted that nearly half of the children who enter foster care do so because of parental substance abuse. Three percent of children enter care because of their own substance abuse issues.

The way social impact bonding works

Connecticut Center for Social Innovation

The way social impact bonding works

However, treatment too often is not available because of waiting lists or large caseloads that leave social workers without the time to refer families. Some parents refuse care.

Nationwide, the percentage of children entering foster care because of parental drug abuse has increased by 7.6 percent over the past five years, Botticelli said in a press release.

“This is about providing effective treatment services early – it’s a strategic approach in order to keep children with their families,” Malloy said. “This is the right thing for Connecticut children and families and the right thing for Connecticut taxpayers.”

This project is being spearheaded by the nonprofit intermediary Social Finance.

Correction: An earlier version of this story indicated that private financing for the new substance abuse program was already in place, but it is still to be raised.

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About Kyle Constable
Kyle Constable

Kyle was a general assignment reporter at the Connecticut Mirror. A former State Capitol beat writer for The Daily Campus, he graduated from UConn with a bachelor's degree in journalism in 2017. He previously worked for the Mirror as a freelance reporter and, before that, was the Mirror's 2016 summer reporting fellow and an intern during the 2016 legislative session.

About Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

Jacqueline won two first prizes from the national Education Writers Association for her work in 2012 – one in beat reporting for her overall education coverage, and the other in investigative reporting on a series of stories revealing questionable monetary and personnel actions taken by the Board of Regents for Higher Education. In 2016, she was a finalist in the EWA competition for single-topic coverage for her reporting on how schools are funded in Connecticut. Before coming to The Mirror, Jacqueline was a reporter, online editor and website developer for The Washington Post Co.’s Maryland newspaper chains. She has also worked for Congressional Quarterly and the Toledo Free Press. Jacqueline received an undergraduate degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and a master’s in public policy from Trinity College. She and her husband, son and two dogs live in Hartford.