County to Expand Drug Addiction 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.

March 1, 2024

The County has received an over $1 million grant from the Federal Department of Justice to help them combat methamphetamine addiction and possibly prevent overdose deaths.

According to a report from Behavioral Health Director, Star Graber, the BHD received the $1.3 million grant “from the Bureau of Justice Assistance for the Comprehensive Opioid Stimulant and Substance Use Program,” and covering from Oct. 1, 2023 to Sept. 30, 2026, “to provide recovery support services to individuals suffering from opiate and stimulant use disorders.” 

The money allows BHD to hire two, limited-term, Behavioral Health Specialist I/II/III to work on the program, calling them “case workers.”

The money is coming in annual installments of $324,000, while it lasts.

“The funds,” Graber’s report said, “will support the BHD’s capacity to provide peer recovery support services to an estimated 200 individuals suffering from opiate use and stimulant use disorders. 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 BHD will also provide stays at drug recovery centers to all the participants in SLO County, which Graber points out is “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 Case Managers,” Graber said, “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.”

While this addiction-fighting program already exists, the grant money will allow it to grow. “There is currently only one Case Manager that covers the entirety of the County, which is not sufficient to meet current needs.”

It’s a way to expand the compassion being shown people addicted to drugs. “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.”

According to the report, the grant would accommodate 25 people a year to check into a recovery center “for an average stay of 90 days.” 

According to a proposed budget included with the report, they will allocate $160,000 for the two new employees, $34,000 to help pay for the existing caseworker, and $119,000 for “services and supplies” for an annual total of $324,000 for this year (2023-24 and covering 9 months).

In the future, the annual grant awards will be $443,000 (FY 2024-25 and 2025-26); and $109,000 for FY 2026-27.

The two new employees would make $45,000 for 9 months of work this year plus $33,000 in benefits for a total salary/benefits package of $80,000 each.

That pay jumps to $64,000 in salary and $46,000 in benefits the following year; and $70,000 and $45,000 the year after (total compensation of $115,000 each).

Graber puts a lot of faith in the program. “Participants in the COSSUP,” the report said, “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.”

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