October 11, 2023

Damien Center's new outpatient program addresses racial, LGBTQ+ disparities in substance use disorder treatment

The program will also hire two peer recovery specialists and expand access to medication assisted recovery, increase testing for HIV and hepatitis and provide funding for harm reduction kits.  - Provided by Damien Center

The program will also hire two peer recovery specialists and expand access to medication assisted recovery, increase testing for HIV and hepatitis and provide funding for harm reduction kits.

Provided by Damien Center

Damien Center will use a new $2.5 million federal grant to create an intensive outpatient program to provide treatment for substance use disorders and people with coexisting substance and mental health disorders.

“When you have a substance use disorder, you need as much support as you can to be successful,” said Alan Witchey is president and CEO of the nonprofit — which provides services to people living with or at risk of HIV. “And these extra new pieces will will provide that to people in this community that otherwise would not get it.”

Witchey said Damien Center has traditionally offered individual care, but the new program — Comprehensive Access to Recovery and Empowerment (CARE) — will offer group support for people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community who have historically not had equitable access to behavioral health care.

He said lack of care can lead to an increased risk of HIV, hepatitis C or other infectious diseases. 

“If you're dealing with racial inequity, and LGBTQ plus inequity, and the intersection of those two things, it's that much more difficult to access systems that might be around,” Witchey said. “We can offer a safe place with a kind of culture where people will feel welcomed and want to be part of it. And so often in our community, that doesn't exist.

The program will also hire two peer recovery specialists and expand access to medication assisted recovery, increase testing for HIV and hepatitis and provide funding for harm reduction kits. 

The program funds are a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Enrollment in the program is expected to begin in January.

Contact WFYI health reporter Darian Benson at dbenson@wfyi.org. Follow on X: @helloimdarian.

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