Human Services Awards Contracts to Provide Medication that Supports Addiction Recovery at Homeless Shelters

(TRENTON)Commissioner Sarah Adelman today announced the Department has awarded contracts to increase access to medication that can support addiction recovery at homeless shelters.

Under the program, licensed providers will provide medication for substance use disorder and support services for individuals who reside or drop in at homeless shelters. The providers will either help the individual maintain treatment with this medication or transition the individual to a community provider that will do the same.

“Many individuals at highest risk for an opioid overdose are those who do not enter or sustain treatment in addiction treatment programs, and this especially includes individuals who are experiencing homelessness,” Commissioner Adelman said. “But data also indicates that those facing instability such as homelessness will seek treatment more readily when services are brought to them. The use of medications to treat substance use disorder is an evidence-based practice that increases the likelihood individuals can embark on recovery. With this new program, we will increase access to these crucial medications and decrease barriers to care and service.”

“This is yet another step forward in our work to reduce obstacles to treatment for individuals facing addiction,” Deputy Commissioner for Health Services Lisa Asare said. “This program will treat individuals who present at the shelter on a walk-in basis, without requiring an appointment. Patients will be seen by the prescriber on the same-day that they present. Through this service, there will be no gaps in access to medication and services provided by the team at the shelter and other treatment providers.”

Assistant Commissioner Valerie Mielke, who oversees Human Services’ Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services, noted a pilot program in California treated individuals experiencing homelessness with buprenorphine – a medication prescribed to treat opioid use disorder - through a doctor, a nurse care manager, and an outreach worker. This small scale program was able to successfully engage 21 individuals.

Another pilot in San Francisco was able to successfully engage 95 individuals over the course of a year, with 77 percent of individuals following up after induction to medication.

“These programs demonstrate that individuals experiencing homelessness, when their opioid use disorder is effectively treated with medication, are very likely to experience positive outcomes in the areas of housing, access to treatment and overall stability,” Assistant Commissioner Mielke said. “It’s not always possible for unsheltered individuals with addiction concerns to focus on recovery due to dealing with a multitude of other issues, but implementing harm reduction programs such as this one is a way to address that concern and bring about positive outcomes.”

The contracts of $425,000 each to provide this service were awarded to Eva’s Village and The Rescue Mission of Trenton.

Under the program, the providers will:

  • Identify and designate staff within the homeless shelter who will lead the shelter’s efforts to provide medication for SUD;
  • Initiate same-day medications;
  • Contract or employ staff with the credentials to prescribe medications;
  • Contract or employ case/care managers, and peers, to connect and engage patients in treatment and social services and to assist patients with care transitions;
  • Create a welcoming and non-stigmatizing atmosphere for individuals seeking the medications they need;
  • Dispense naloxone as an overdose prevention medication;
  • Connect individuals to an affiliated Federally Qualified Health Center for the treatment of physical and mental health concerns and chronic pain; and
  • Implement harm reductions strategies and interventions to address substance use disorder, primarily opioid use disorder and alcohol use disorder.

New Jersey has designated two Centers of Excellence in the treatment of substance abuse disorder - at Rowan University/Cooper Medical School in Camden and Rutgers University Medical School in Newark. They both offer free training, mentoring and telephone services help to prescribers or individuals who are becoming certified to offer medications that treat individuals with substance use disorder. These services will be available to assist the contracted providers.

This program is funded through a federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration grant, and Human Services anticipates issuing an additional request for proposals in the near future to further expand this program.