In Connecticut, drug and opioid overdoses have surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of accidental deaths. The epidemic is largely centered in the rural region served by Community Health and Wellness Center of Greater Torrington (CHWC).
“The opioid crisis is far-reaching and has no boundaries,” says Joanne Borduas, CEO of CHWC. “It affects all ages, whether you are a victim of addiction or whether you suffer from the effects of living with one.”
A six-year partnership with the Primary Care Development Corporation (PCDC) has transformed CHWC’s response to the crisis — as well as expanded and enhanced its care overall.
Following $2.5 million in PCDC financing, CHWC launched an opioid treatment program that included Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), which combines medication with counseling and behavioral therapies to prevent opioid overdose. PCDC’s Transformation Loan Fund has also helped CHWC grow the program by enabling hiring of new, highly trained staff.
To further enhance quality, CHWC broadened its primary and women’s health care, dental and behavioral health services, HIV care, nutrition counseling, and ophthalmology. An on-site pharmacy was also added, allowing easier access and convenience for patients.
Other new developments included chiropractic services, a Community and Clinical Integration Program, enhanced patient engagement initiatives, and various state-of-the-art technological advancements.
Following these staff investments and upgrades, CHWC saw a 26 percent increase in visits last year — with numbers jumping from 22,645 visits in 2017 to 30,762 in 2018.
This focus on affordable, accessible care in pursuit of health equity has not gone unnoticed. Through the Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA), CHWC received the National Quality Leadership Award in 2017 and the Health Center Quality Leader Award in 2018. The Business Council of Fairfield County also named CHWC a 2019 Healthy Workplace Honoree for its internal efforts around employee productivity and wellness.
Next steps for CHWC include the expansion of a new 7,300-square-foot facility in Winsted that will provide easily accessible medical, behavioral, and mental health services to a wider community. CHWC is also exploring further expansion opportunities in Torrington and Canaan as well as continuing to hire additional staff at all locations.
Across its sites, CHWC is committed to addressing the needs of its patients by providing centers of high- quality, affordable, and community-based primary care services, according to Borduas.
“Financing from PCDC has helped CHWC fund much-needed staff resources to ensure building programs that not only address the immediate needs of our patients, but also the broader needs of the community,” she says.
–Written by Naomi Arnot, intern with PCDC’s Advocacy and Communications group