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Program Celebrates Success in Putting People in Treatment, Not Prison

September 30, 2022

Pride was in the air Tuesday at the “Celebration of Success” reception for the Meriden Opioid Referral for Recovery (MORR) program, a partnership between first responders and Rushford that has helped put people in treatment instead of behind bars. Started in 2018 as a way to combat the opioid crisis, the MORR program is funded by a $2 million four-year federal grant that brings together members of the Meriden Police and Fire departments, Hunter’s Ambulance and Rushford to strategize and implement strategies to combat the opioid crisis in the Meriden community. The most effective tactic has been the enhancement of community policing efforts by embedding Rushford clinicians to provide immediate mobile crisis services to guide individuals on a path to recovery. Enhanced training and referral practices have also made a difference. "Experts at engaging people suffering society’s stigma driven discrimination, the MORR team offers hope and embodies the Rushford motto Recovery Never Stops and Neither Do We,” said J. Craig Allen, MD, Rushford medical director and HHC vice president of addiction services. The program results? They have gained national attention. Over the last four years, Narcan was deployed in over 560 instances by Meriden first responders with 288 individuals then referred by the first responders to the MORR program. Among those referred, 76% were able to be connected to MORR staff and in year four, after a 12-month follow-up interval, 91% of clients reached did not report subsequent overdose. Meriden Mayor Kevin Scarpati reminded guests that it takes a village, and praised all who have made the program successful over the years. He also thanked Hartford HealthCare for its commitment to the community and growth of area health programs and services. Speaker Gary Havican, president of Hartford HealthCare's Central Region, noted the importance of this collaboration where resources are leveraged for one common goal — to take action. “The fallout from the opioid epidemic is real to us. We were being proactive and not reactive and are making strides together with our best practices being recognized and utilized across the country,” he added. The afternoon reception highlighted program accomplishments and success stories, and concluded with recognition awards and local legislators presenting individual first responders and Rushford staff with official proclamations issued by the Connecticut General Assembly. As the event concluded, the mission continues. Attendees that have served as valued partners in bringing services and support to those struggling with substance use disorders committed to finding additional funding to continue their groundbreaking work. “We are going to continue because this is a great opportunity for the community and to save lives,” said Jessica Matyka, LCSW, Rushford clinical director.