Del. health department marks 100,000 substance abuse treatment referrals

Charlie Megginson Headlines, Health

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The Delaware Department of Health and Social Services has surpassed a milestone of 100,000 Delawareans to substance use and mental health services.

Referrals are made through the Delaware Treatment and Referral Network, conducted by the agency’s Division of Substance Use and Mental Health.

Delaware is the first state to make more than 100,000 referrals using the system.

The system identifies and tracks health resources throughout the state, giving providers immediate visibility into resource availability across a shared network. This makes it easier to get people the help they need when they need it, according to a press release from the agency.

“One death from an opioid overdose or from a mental health crisis is one too many,” said Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long in a press release. “For families coping with a loved one, who suffers from substance use disorder or mental illness, finding help is an immediate need that must be met.”

Hall-Long said reaching the milestone is proof that Delaware is mending its fractured behavioral health system by ensuring that those in need can access treatment and get on the path to recovery.

She noted that in Nov. 2021, Newsweek recognized Delaware as one of only four states that the CDC reported as having a decrease in the annual percentage rate of opioid deaths. 

Joanna Champney, director of the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, said the milestone represents 100,000 instances where a pathway to treatment was made available for someone so that they didn’t end up in an emergency room — or worse.

The Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health launched the referral network in Oct. 2018 as a way to improve outcomes for Delawareans suffering from a substance use disorder, while coordinating support for accompanying needs like housing, employment, and education. 

A recent analysis of the referral network showed that in its first year of operation it generated a 45% increase in treatment referral requests.

Despite its successes, overdose deaths have continued to rise in Delaware, reaching 447 in 2020 — up from 431 in 2019 and 401 in 2018. 

Of those 447 deaths, 372 or 83 percent have involved the use of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine.

According to the CDC, 45.2 opioid prescriptions are dispensed per 100 Delawareans — slightly higher than the national average of 43.3 prescriptions per 100 Americans.

A press release from the Department of Health and Social Services said that lack of visibility for providers in determining current inpatient and residential treatment center capacity can make it challenging to connect clients with appropriate substance use and behavioral health services in a timely manner.

Referring physicians and treatment providers often struggle to share client data, admission criteria, and availability, the agency said, noting that for clients in need, those delays can be dangerous and even life-threatening. 

By assisting providers with the onboarding process to encourage adoption of the Delaware Treatment and Referral Network, Delaware expanded the number of active users on its network by 264% in its first year.

The referral platform also improved response rates to referral requests, with 65% of receiving organizations acknowledging a client referral within 30 minutes, an increase of 25% since the program’s inception a year prior. 

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction in Delaware, call DHSS’s 24/7 Crisis Hotline to be connected to treatment and recovery options at 1-833-9-HOPEDE or visit HelpIsHereDE.com or treatmentconnection.com

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