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Medication-Assisted Treatment Program Expands to Brooklyn

S:US is pleased to announce that we’ve been awarded an overdose prevention grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)—part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

This grant will allow S:US to launch a Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) program at our Brooklyn Wellness Works Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) to expand and enhance access to medications for opioid use disorder (OUD) among individuals in high-needs Brooklyn communities. The program will replicate the success of our MAT program at our East Harlem Wellness Works Clinic, by providing targeted outreach to identify and engage individuals with OUD in collaboration with community-partners, and provide flexible, person-centered interdisciplinary treatment and recovery supports (including medication-assisted treatment, behavioral health therapies, peer supports, and more).

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, more than 107,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2021, an increase of more than 15 percent from 2020. For many Americans struggling with hardships through the pandemic, increased substance use was prevalent as a coping mechanism.

The same was true in NYC, where the pandemic brought NYC’s overdose crisis to an all-time high – the city experienced a sharp increase in death rates with 2,062 overdose deaths in 2020 (a 36% increase from 2019). This increase was not evenly distributed among the population and significant geographic and subpopulation disparities have meant these increases have burdened some New Yorkers more than others. Black New Yorkers had the highest rates of overdose deaths and had the largest increase in rate from 2019-2020, followed by Latinx New Yorkers. In 2020, New Yorkers ages 55 to 64 years had the highest rate of overdose death (52.4 per 100,000 residents, up from 39.7 per 100,000 in 2019). High poverty neighborhoods also have seen the fastest largest rise in overdose deaths including East New York with 36.8 deaths per 100,000, the highest rates in Brooklyn.

At a time when drug overdose is preventable, the sharp rise in overdose rates indicates a substantial need for identification of opioid use disorder, treatment and recovery services as well as robust community-based approaches to engage the population of focus. More than 3 out of 5 of overdose deaths nationally present at least one opportunity to connect individuals to care before an overdose or implement life-saving action once an overdose has occurred. In 2020, opioids were involved in 85% of overdose deaths. Approximately half (48%) of all overdose deaths involved more than one central nervous system depressant such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, or opioids. This trend mirrors what S:US has seen among our high-need consumers, who have experienced an increase in isolation and drug use during the pandemic, coupled with a decrease in access to services.

S:US has over 40 years of experience providing recovery and treatment services in New York City. Our programs serve primarily BIPOC, with 59% who identify as African American or Black and 24% who identify as Latinx or Hispanic. The people we serve are often the hardest to reach as they are homeless or formerly homeless, have unmet or unaddressed behavioral health challenges, and have unmet needs including social determinants of health like food, transportation, and employment. Approximately 11% of the individuals we serve identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer.

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