County to Beef Up Opioid Treatment Program

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

December 14, 2023

San Luis Obispo County will beef up a program designed to help people addicted to opiates transition from lockup to a treatment facility, in a program projected to help hundreds of people over its 3-year run.

Supervisors recently accepted a $1.3 million grant from the Federal Department of Justice’s “Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant, and Substance Use Program” or COSSUP that will go into the Behavioral Health Department’s program providing “peer recovery support services to an estimated two hundred individuals suffering from opiate use and stimulant use disorders,” reads a County staff report from the director of BHD. “The target population is adults who have both opiate use disorder and stimulant use disorder, primarily methamphetamine, who are at high-risk for overdose.”

The County currently has but one person running this entire program and the demand is great. This grant, which is spread over 3 years (expiring in 2026) will add two more, limited time case workers. It’s a hands-on program.

“The BHD,” reads the report, “will provide recovery support services in the form of Recovery Residence stays [drug and alcohol-free living] to all COSSUP participants in San Luis Obispo County, one of the least affordable housing markets in the nation, who need this level of care. All Recovery Residences provided funding with this grant will be Medication Assisted Treatment [MAT] compliant to serve those with opiate use disorders.”

The County annually contracts out these types of residential placements to approved treatment facilities in both Northern and Southern California, as such facilities in SLO County are scarce. 

These arrangements, arising through several different BHD, Probation and court programs, total several million dollars a year. The new hires will jump right in. 

The case managers will, “provide intensive case management services to COSSUP participants while in custody and while in treatment after being released from custody. The Case Managers will provide transportation and an initial supply of hygiene items to provide a warm welcome from custody to outpatient treatment in conjunction with the Recovery Residence.”

The program’s goal is essentially to save lives. “This grant will address both mental health and substance use disorders in coordinated integrated care to provide the bridge from County Jail to community-based treatment and builds upon the results of BHD’s previous efforts to bend the curve of opioid overdose fatality rate in San Luis Obispo County.”

The report lays out the budget for the grant, listing $160,000 in salaries and benefits for Fiscal Year 2023-24, plus $34,000 to support the salary of the existing case manager; and $110,000 for services and supplies, for a total budget of $305,000 in direct costs and another $19,000 in indirect costs for a grand total of $324,000.

Future annual budgets go up from there to $433,000 in FY 2024/25 and FY 25/26 and then dropping to $109,000 in a shortened FY 26/27, eating up entirely the $1.3 million grant.

The salaries, in case readers thought they might apply for these jobs, start out at $34,000 for the rest of this year, and $64,000-$66,000 next fiscal year; and topping out at $68,000-$70,000 in FY 25/26. These jobs also come with a complete benefits packages.

The program’s goal is to help 25 people a year get into residential treatment from County Jail with an average stay of 3 months (90 days). They also place time limits on delivering their services. 

“COSSUP,” the report said, “will initiate ninety percent of referrals within seven days and seventy percent of COSSUP admission will have at least two treatment contacts within 14 days of admission.”

The program makes a bold claim. “As a result, there will be a measured improvement in employment, decreased drug, and alcohol use, and decreased legal involvement as measured by pre-test and post-test measured by objective drug testing results, for self-reported employment status, and by review of arrest information prior to program participation and at discharge to ensure that the participants meet the goals, initiation and engagement are predictor measures of successful long-term outcomes regardless of completion. 

“Participants in the COSSUP will have achieved and sustained a lifestyle of sobriety and recovery, including learning skills to better manage their lives. There will be decreased criminal recidivism, decreased impact on criminal justice and behavioral health care systems, and re-stabilized lives which will contribute to the County vision of a safe and healthy community.”

BHD got support letters from local law enforcement agencies including the County Sheriff and Probation Departments, as well as the Superior Court, and because it’s coming from DOJ, a law enforcement organization will oversee it. “This grant will be overseen by the Community Corrections Partnership as this is a Department of Justice grant with the lead agency being the Health Agency BHD.” 

The Community Corrections Partnership is an obscure public agency that was created after passage of Senate Bill 678 — The California Community Corrections Performance Incentive Act of 2009, according to the agency’s webpage, located through SLO County’s Home Page. 

“This bill requires that each county that receives funding under the act convene a local Community Corrections Partnership,” the website explains. “Moreover, the bill requires that the partnership is chaired by the Chief Probation Officer and includes: The Presiding Judge of the Superior Court; the County CAO; the District Attorney; the Public Defender; the Sheriff; a Police Chief; the county heads of: Department of Social Service; County Mental Health; Alcohol and Drug services; employment; County Office of Education; and a representative from a community-based organization.”

Committee chairman and Probation Chief, Robert Reyes said, “Our ability to make progress toward this goal requires collaboration and partnership with all of the components of the adult criminal justice system, education, social services; substance abuse, mental health, and community-based services in San Luis Obispo County,” as the reason the County formed the CCP.

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