Niagara County Awarded $1.3 Million from Department of Justice to fight Substance Abuse

The Niagara County Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (NCDMH) has been awarded a $1.3 million grant from the federal Department of Justice to support its efforts in the battle against substance abuse and overdoses.  The grant will fund a two-pronged, harm-reduction approach connecting individuals to recovery supports and treatment while diverting from criminal justice involvement.

Laura Kelemen, Director of NCDMH, said the funds will expand the community’s Quick Response to Opioid Overdose Team (QRT) to include response to overdoses of any drug type and add family peer support.  The quick response team will expand referral sources beyond law enforcement, including other first responders, hospitals, providers, and self-referral.

“Our quick response team has provided clinical and peer intervention to more than 400 people and these funds will allow us to expand those efforts,” said Kelemen.   “In addition, we will be adding a family specialist to assist those who have been impacted by overdose, including fatal overdoses.”

Kelemen said the county will also use the grant funds to create a Probationer Response Team (PRT), embedding a licensed clinician and peer support into the probation department to help those who are at risk of being sent back to jail due to substance related issues.  The PRT will engage probationers, develop individual plans, and connect participants to recovery resources. Clinicians will provide brief counseling, help build recovery skills and reduce barriers to care.

“It’s to our community’s benefit when we can help individuals on probation address their substance abuse issues and avoid being sent back to jail,” said Kelemen.  “From there, they can hopefully get their life back on track and chart a better course forward.”