As part of its new strategic plan to more fully meet the behavioral healthcare needs of underserved communities, Bridges Healthcare has established a larger presence and expansion of services in the City of West Haven. The Yale New Haven Hospital Community Needs Assessment-2019 covering the Greater New Haven area (including Bridges’ catchment area) lists chronic diseases and mental health and addiction as top health concerns followed by access to health care services.
• 55% of respondents indicated that they sometimes have access to mental/behavioral healthcare
• 24% indicated that they rarely have access.
• 43% indicated that they only sometimes have access to primary care.
According to Bridges’ President & CEO Jennifer Fiorillo, “Limited access to behavioral health and primary care services along with the increased hospitalizations in the service area underscore the opportunity for expansion and improved access to vital mental health, screenings, integrated primary care and wraparound services especially for underserved populations and people of color.”
Through multiple partnerships and funding opportunities, Bridges has several new initiatives operating in the community, including a new clinical site at 98 Elm St. The site is a component of the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic, (CCBHC) a federally funded model which offers enhanced access to behavioral health and other integrated services in Milford, West Haven, Orange and Stratford. Bridges achieved CCBHC status in 2020.
Counseling services for children and adults will be offered at the site by appointment only. Among the primary services will be individual, group and family psychotherapy, and medication management. The site also serves as the base for the Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) Team. ACT delivers community and home-based clinical and case management services to individuals who have serious mental illness, often complicated by substance abuse. Typically, these individuals have been hospitalized for psychiatric issues and emergencies, and have had difficulty engaging in traditional office-based services.
According to CCBHC Project Director, Debra Gannon, M.A., M.S., LPC, NCC, “CCBHC brings major benefits to Bridges’ clients, as well as to the communities we serve. Expanded access to services provides critical 24/7 crisis response, and professionally coordinated, comprehensive and timely treatment for individuals with a range of health and mental health disorders. Services are evidenced-based to offer better results and outcomes for clients.”
Bridges will also offer a mobile primary health care clinic to provide health screenings and services to adults in neighborhoods throughout the community. The mobile unit is scheduled to begin service later in 2021.
Youth Prevention Education and Support
Prevention services are also a priority for the agency, and were identified as a high need resource in West Haven. Again, through Federal and State funding opportunities, Bridges was awarded grants to establish the West Haven Prevention Council (WHPC), which aims to involve and engage the local community to prevent alcohol and substance use among our young people between the ages of 12 and 20.
“Bridges Healthcare and Milford Prevention Council (MPC) have partnered over the past ten years to develop and implement a successful, comprehensive youth substance use prevention program in Milford. We are pleased to expand this vital programming to West Haven youth and their families,” said Wendy Gibbons, LCSW, Bridges’ Director of Prevention Services.
Opioid Use Prevention and Treatment
Expanding on this goal, with funding from the national Community-Based Coalition Enhancement Grants to Address Local Drug Crisis (CARA) Program, the WHPC will work to prevent opioid and prescription drug use among youth ages 12-18 in West Haven.
“Preventing opioid and prescription drug use for young people is a first step in battling what too often becomes a deadly addiction,” said Bridges CEO & President, Jennifer Fiorillo. “West Haven was one of the first communities to welcome our MATT’S Van Mobile Addiction Treatment Team to the community. MATT’s Van is there to help save lives by getting individuals with opioid use disorder into treatment fast.”
Bridges and Optimus Health Care partnered to open a School-based Health Center at West Haven High School earlier this year. Bridges provides the behavioral health services and Optimus provides the primary care services. The Center provides quick and easy access for students to primary care, dental health, wellness counseling and mental health services.
Adding to the prevention education and outreach efforts for youth, Bridges offers West Haven students the B-SAFE Project. The B-SAFE Project is a community-based program, that promotes healthy choices and responsible decision-making around sexual activity, self-image and relationships, and reproductive health for teens and young adults, and provides pregnancy and parenting education, referrals and support for teens and young adults up to age 22.
Continuing Services for the Elderly
For more than a decade Bridges has provided clinical case management services to low-income West Haven residents 60 years of age and over. Funded by the Community Development Block Grant and in conjunction with the Area Agency on Aging, the program provides elderly individuals with assistance completing applications and redeterminations for Social Security, rental rebate, energy assistance, American Cares Act the food stamp program and health insurance coverage. The program also makes referrals to home care agencies, food banks, and other social service agencies. Services are flexible and standard operating procedures calls for services to be are delivered at the Noble Street Senior Center, in the individual’s home, or at another community location.
In summary, Ms. Fiorillo stated, “West Haven is a diverse city, with a vivid history and a strong legacy of its’ citizens helping one another in times of need. We are extremely proud and gratified to be a partner to West Haven, and to provide the residents with easy access to quality behavioral and healthcare services, along with the prevention education and support services that help insure a healthy future for the community.”