DHSS Seeks Personal Stories from Delaware Families for Project Featuring Loved Ones Lost to Overdoses

NEW CASTLE (Nov. 4, 2022) – The Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, in collaboration with the Lt. Governor’s Office and the Delaware Art Museum, is seeking personal stories and photos from Delaware families who have lost loved ones to drug overdoses. The submissions will be used to create an emotional and educational exhibition in 2023 to help reduce the stigma associated with substance use disorder.

Delaware individuals and families are asked to submit three photos of their loved ones and to fill out a questionnaire through an online portal operated by INTO LIGHT Project, a national nonprofit that creates art exhibitions using the submissions as a way to change the conversation about drug addiction, educate the public, and reduce the stigma surrounding substance use disorder. The deadline for submissions is Nov. 15. There is no cost to families to participate.

Using the submitted photos, INTO LIGHT Project’s professional artists will create original graphite portraits of each of the 41 individuals who will be part of the exhibition. Each portrait is framed and accompanied by a narrative depicting the individual’s life as told by their loved ones. After the exhibition ends, the portraits are gifted to the families.

Delaware’s exhibition will be held June 1, 2023, to Dec. 3, 2023, at the Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington.

“What a powerful way to show the personal loss that, sadly, too many Delaware families have experienced during the opioid epidemic,” said Joanna Champney, director of the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health. “We know that those who died from overdoses are not numbers. They were sons and daughters, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, friends, neighbors and colleagues. They were loved and they are missed profoundly. We are grateful to the 41 Delaware families who will share their stories with INTO LIGHT Project as part of this important exhibition next year at the Delaware Art Museum.”

To accurately reflect the breadth of individuals lost to drug overdoses and substance use disorder in Delaware, the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health is seeking a diverse group of submissions from Delaware families. Families are included on a first-come, first-served basis. Delaware families who are interested in submitting an application on behalf of their loved one to INTO LIGHT Project, should visit: https://intolightproject.org/DE.


Dover Health Care Provider Expands Behavioral Health Services for the LGBTQ Community

NEW CASTLE (Feb. 21, 2022) – A Dover primary care office is expanding behavioral health services for LGBTQ individuals thanks to federal grant funding. A Peaceful Place Integrated Care is using the grant to support the addition of a certified drug and alcohol counselor, a licensed clinical social worker, and a peer navigator to help treat patients with substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health issues. The funds also support the use of telehealth to help patients continue accessing treatment.

A Peaceful Place is a minority-owned, woman-owned primary care office run by Ericka Daniel, a psychiatric nurse practitioner and family nurse practitioner. Daniel decided to open a practice that focuses on the unique needs of the LGBTQ population after she completed training in transgender health and non-binary gender education and realized there are few service providers with this specialized knowledge in Delaware.

“I would go to refer patients to LGBTQ-affirming health providers and realized there were hardly any,” Daniel said. “So, I decided to start my own practice.”

Daniel’s office provides primary care and wraparound behavioral health support services. Although she accepts all patients for primary health care, she seeks to create an environment that is especially LGBTQ-affirming. For example, the practice provides gender-affirming hormones for transgender individuals.

The practice also welcomes those who have substance use disorders and those diagnosed with hepatitis C. Daniel prescribes buprenorphine in both the oral and injectable forms, as well as naltrexone and vivitrol.

The Delaware Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health (DSAMH) oversees the $37 million State Opioid Response (SOR) grant from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the source of the funding for A Peaceful Place. Rick Urey, Chief of Addiction Services at DSAMH, said that partnering with LGBTQ-friendly health care providers is critical to ensuring a pathway for all patients who need treatment for substance use disorders.

“We want anyone who needs treatment services to feel like they have places they can go where they are welcomed and respected,” Urey said. “Having an LGBTQ-friendly primary care office that also offers behavioral health services is a huge asset for our community. Not all health care providers understand how to prescribe medication for opiate use disorders, let alone how to integrate it with the specific health care needs of LGBTQ patients, especially those on hormone therapy.”

Daniel’s decision to integrate behavioral health services with primary care is driven by the frequent co-occurrence of mental health and substance use disorders in the LGBTQ community, as well as first-hand experience with her patients’ needs.

“LGBTQ patients have often suffered a series of traumatic experiences that can have a substantial effect on their physical and mental health,” Daniel said. “Due to perceptions about their lifestyle, it might have been separation, abandonment, and being ostracized by their faith communities. This causes a lot of trauma and people begin to self-medicate to numb that pain, which can lead to addiction and other risky behaviors.”

According to SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, sexual minority adults are nearly twice as likely as their heterosexual counterparts to suffer from substance use disorder. Moreover, there were huge treatment gaps: less than 14% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults with SUD reported not receiving treatment during the 2019 survey. A recent study from the University of Pittsburgh found that nearly 1 in 10 gay/lesbian youth reported a history of heroin use compared to 4.1% of bisexual and 1.1% of heterosexual young people.

Some of the contributing factors to a higher prevalence of substance use among sexual minorities may include social exclusion, physical abuse, rejection by family or community, or other types of discrimination. A widely cited study from the University of Michigan found that LGB adults who have experienced multiple forms of discrimination are four times more likely to experience substance use disorder.

“I don’t want them to have to worry about facing rejection by another health care provider,” Daniel said. “It’s critical that they can have their needs met for their opiate use disorder and/or hormone replacement therapy in a setting that is respectful and nonjudgmental.”

Trust built over time is critical for developing the best health care plans with her patients. “Some patients initially try to hide their addiction from their primary care physician, but when they come to us, we take a holistic approach to talking about their health, and over time they become comfortable talking with me about more aspects of their health,” Daniel said.

When clients faced financial problems, Daniel has applied for the state’s Opioid Impact Fee Fund scholarships to ensure their recovery is not jeopardized. “I’ve used this fund for hotel stays and to pay for utilities for patients who were struggling financially,” she says. The fund, established through Senate Bill 34, was signed into law in 2019 and has been administered by DSAMH. Nearly 600 scholarships for housing, transportation, basic necessities, and other needs have been awarded to date to support the recovery of people with substance use disorders.

“This is a judgment-free zone,” Daniel said of A Peaceful Place. “Everyone has a messy life, so don’t let that stop you from coming in. We just want you to be healthy, to be well, to live how you want to live, according to your own yardstick.”

• • •

Learn more about health care services provided by A Peaceful Place at www.apeacefulplaceintegratedcare.com or by calling 302-264-9436.

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use disorder, you are encouraged to call DHSS’ 24/7 free and confidential Delaware Hope Line at 1-833-9-HOPEDE or text CONNECT to 55753.

Funding for these initiatives is supplied by grant number 5H79TI083305-02 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of SAMHSA or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).


DHSS Marks Milestone of 100,000 Referrals for Substance Use, Mental Health Services

NEW CASTLE (Jan. 4, 2022) – The Department of Health and Social Services’ (DHSS) Division of Substance Use and Mental Health (DSAMH) has surpassed a milestone of 100,000 referrals through its Delaware Treatment and Referral Network (DTRN), a system for Delawareans seeking substance use and mental health services.

Delaware is the first state to make more than 100,000 referrals using this system, built on the OpenBeds® platform, a bed registry platform owned by Bamboo Health (formerly Appriss Health + PatientPing). The DTRN system identifies and tracks behavioral health and social determinants of 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.

“One death from an opioid overdose or from a mental health crisis is one too many,” said Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long, Ph.D., RN. “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. The 100,000 referrals through DTRN demonstrates that we are mending the fractured behavioral health system in Delaware, so people can get access to treatment and on the path to recovery. As Chair of Delaware’s Behavioral Health Consortium, we remain committed to saving lives through platforms like DTRN and the network of behavioral health providers. Newsweek recently recognized Delaware in November 2021 as one of only four states that the CDC reported as having a decrease in the annual percentage rate of opioid deaths. DTRN was a significant tool contributing to this reduction.”

“This milestone represents a systematic improvement in identifying and treating individuals with substance use disorders,” said Joanna Champney, Director of the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health. “That is 100,000 times where a pathway to treatment was made available for someone so they didn’t have to end up in the emergency room or worse.”

The Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health launched DTRN in October 2018 as a way to improve outcomes for Delawareans suffering from a substance use disorder, while coordinating support for accompanying needs for housing, employment, education and other wraparound services. A recent white paper summarizing first-year results showed that the cloud-based network for expedited client referrals to inpatient and residential behavioral health programs generated a 45% increase in treatment referral requests in its first year, while improving rapid acknowledgment of referrals by 25%.

“Open Beds has been a fantastic platform that has provided transparency like never before,” said Steve Beltran, MSN, an RN Nurse Manager for ChristianaCare. “It has allowed us to place our patients in the right level of care faster. And has proven to be an effective method to communicate with care providers and agencies across the state.”

Overdose deaths continue to rise in Delaware, reaching 447 in 2020 (up from 431 in 2019 and 401 in 2018). Of those 447 deaths, 372 (83%) involved the use of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that is 50-100 times more potent than morphine.

The state’s opioid prescribing rate in 2020 of 45.2 per 100 people is higher than the U.S. average of 43.3, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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. For clients in need, these 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.

“DTRN has been pivotal in connecting individuals with behavioral health and substance use issues with appropriate providers in an efficient and collaborative manner,” said John McKenna, CEO of Rockford Center. “This technology has substantially improved not only access to treatment for individuals and families, but also has facilitated an enhanced level of communication between the referring agency and our Assessment Center. Whether it’s accepting individual referrals at our front door, or helping our discharging patients get connected to community services prior to leaving our facility, DTRN has assisted in removing barriers and promoted access to a wider range of resources in our state. The system also provides us with critical data that allows us to better understand patient and family needs, engagement in treatment, and potential service gaps.”

“The Delaware Treatment and Referral Network has allowed the Department of Correction to connect individuals in our custody to vital health care services upon their release to the community,” said Department of Correction Commissioner Monroe B. Hudson Jr. “DTRN makes possible a seamless transition to resources like Medication-Assisted Treatment for offenders who struggle with addiction. Simply put, keeping these behavioral and medical health care services in place without interruption saves lives and is helping the DOC and our partners improve reentry outcomes across Delaware.”

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


DHSS, Other Agencies Seek to Connect Patients of Two Prescribers Associated with Md. Clinic to Continuing Treatment

NEW CASTLE (Feb. 5, 2021) –Two Maryland prescribers associated with a clinic in Denton, Maryland, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland surrendered their Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Registration for cause in early January. The associated prescribers to this practice are no longer able to prescribe controlled substances. Patients of this Eastern Shore practice, including Delaware residents, should seek alternatives for care.

Of the prescribers’ 300 now former patients, about 50% live in Delaware, mostly in Sussex County. To increase the opportunity for continuity of care for these patients, the Delaware Division of Public Health, the Delaware Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, the Delaware Division of Professional Regulation and the Office of Controlled Substances are coordinating efforts to notify hospital and community pharmacies, hospital emergency departments and treatment programs.

Delaware officials said the most effective way to provide the clinic’s former patients with guidance and referrals to other providers is through the patients’ primary care physicians. If that doesn’t occur, patients being treated over long periods of time for pain with opioids such as oxycodone, fentanyl, morphine and oxymorphone will need to access providers with expertise in treating and managing pain.

Delaware patients who are seeking referrals to physicians may contact the Delaware Hope Line at 1-833-9-HOPEDE (1-833-946-7333).

In addition, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides a 24/7 National Helpline to provide referrals for treatment services at 1-800-662-4359.

While opioids serve a purpose in managing a patient’s pain, they belong to a family of prescription drugs, which can lead to addiction. Delaware is one of the top 20 states in opioid prescriptions per capita and currently has the nation’s highest prescription rate for high-dose opioids. Delaware also ranks in the top five states for most overdose deaths per capita.

In its annual report for 2019, the Delaware Division of Forensic Science reported 431 overdose deaths in Delaware, an increase of almost 8% over 2018. Of the 431 total deaths, the Division reported that 341 (79%) involved fentanyl, a synthetic pain reliever that is 50-100 times more potent than morphine. Many of those deaths involved fentanyl powder, fentanyl mixed with heroin, or counterfeit controlled substance pills containing fentanyl. The percentage of total overdose deaths in 2019 involving fentanyl was 5 percentage points higher than in 2018. A final report on overdose deaths for 2020 is not expected until April, but Delaware expects to see an increase in overdose deaths over the 2019 total.

Recognizing the importance of harm reduction, prevention, treatment and recovery, the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) launched www.HelpIsHereDE.com to offer resources to Delawareans and their loved ones suffering from substance use disorder (SUD). In 2020, DHSS also launched the 24/7 Delaware Hope Line at 1-833-9-HOPEDE (1-833-946-7333) to provide a connection to treatment for anyone suffering from substance use disorder, anxiety, depression, or any other behavioral health issue.

Division of Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay urged Delawareans who are worried about the risk of overdose among family members or friends to obtain naloxone – a medication that can reverse an opioid overdose – through a new DPH mail-order service that can deliver Narcan to an eligible person’s home for free; at one of DSAMH’s Bridge Clinics in each of the three counties; through a participating pharmacy – where no prescription is required; or as part of a naloxone training session.

“Naloxone saves lives,” said Division of Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “We also encourage Delawareans to download OpiRescue Delaware, a smartphone app that provides life-saving step-by-step instructions on how to respond to an overdose, including administration of naloxone.” To find the Bridge Clinic in your county, naloxone training or distribution events, or a participating pharmacy, go to HelpIsHereDE.com, and click on the overdose prevention tab.


DHSS’ Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Launches Online Behavioral Health Treatment Referral Platform

NEW CASTLE (Sept. 17, 2020) – The Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) announced today the launch of a new online platform that allows Delawareans to find substance use disorder or mental health treatment services for themselves or a loved one.

DHSS’ Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health (DSAMH) partnered with Appriss Health, a national technology company that provides solutions to health care entities and government agencies, to develop the online Behavioral Health Referral Portal for Delaware. The new application – which can be accessed through HelpisHereDE.com and directly through Treatment Connection (www.treatmentconnection.com) – enables those seeking mental health and substance use disorder (SUD) treatment services to anonymously search for nearby providers, evaluate the type of care needed, and submit confidential online referral inquiries to appropriate treatment providers vetted by DHSS.

Delawareans needing support for mental health and substance use disorder challenges will have self-service access to:

  • A self-assessment tool to help determine the most appropriate level of treatment.
  • A searchable list of trusted treatment services and providers by ZIP code and distance.
  • Educational materials.
  • Contact information for providers with current treatment capacity.
  • Confidential communications with treatment providers about next steps.

“This is critical access for Delaware families who have long sought a way to connect online with substance use disorder and mental health providers about confidential treatment services for loved ones,” DHSS Secretary Molly Magarik said. “In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, having this virtual connection is even more important.”

“Time is of the essence. We must do everything we can for individuals and families seeking help when they need it. Our focus has been to close gaps in services and provide choices for individuals in addressing their recovery needs,” said Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long, who chairs the Behavioral Health Consortium. “This virtual referral platform provides another level of care coordination to ensure Delawareans have recovery options to support a stronger and healthier Delaware.”

“The ability for someone to know how to be connected to treatment improves equitable access to these critical services,” said Alexis Teitelbaum, DSAMH’s Acting Director. “This tool is a part of our efforts to ensure that when anyone needs help immediately, they can be seamlessly connected to a provider equipped with up-to-date information about caring for that person.”

Through August of this year, Delaware’s Division of Forensic Science has reported 256 deaths from suspected overdoses in Delaware, an increase of about 32% from the same period in 2019. In a study published in August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found elevated adverse mental health conditions associated with COVID-19 among U.S. adults. In the study, 31% of respondents reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, 26% reported symptoms of trauma or stressor-related disorder, 13% said they had started or increased substance use, and 11% reported having seriously considered suicide in the 30 days prior to the study.

In addition to the new online portal, Delawareans can seek behavioral health support for themselves or their loved ones by:

  • Calling DHSS’ 24/7 Delaware Hope Line at 1-833-9-HOPEDE (1-833-946-7333) and talking with a trained professional.
  • Visiting one of DSAMH’s Bridge Clinics in person. For an appointment, call the New Castle County clinic at 302-255-1650; for Kent County, call 302-857-5060; for Sussex County, call 302-515-3310.
  • Talking with their doctor or another trusted health care professional.

DSAMH will provide behavioral health providers statewide with marketing materials to promote the new online service.

About Appriss Health

Appriss Health provides trusted technology solutions to federal and state governments, payers, health systems, clinicians, pharmacies, and health information exchanges working to improve public health. In collaboration with state governments, Appriss built the nation’s most comprehensive, standards-driven data integration platform to combat the nation’s opioid epidemic. Appriss’ platform connects nearly all U.S. states, close to 1 million prescribers and half a million care team members, more than 30,000 pharmacies, and thousands of hospitals, managing more than 400 million daily transactions. It enables seamless in-workflow visibility to patients’ prescription drug history and a comprehensive solution that improves access to needed care for people with behavioral health conditions and social determinants of health challenges. Combined, Appriss’ data analytics solutions and bi-directional communication capabilities support whole-person care and rehabilitation for physical and behavioral health conditions and substance use disorders, improving health outcomes and reducing overall healthcare spending. For more information, please visit www.apprisshealth.com.