'We need to do better-' state panel releases mental health, substance abuse action plan

Delaware's opioid addiction crisis takes front and center in a three-year action plan released by a panel that spent six months listening to the stories of Delawareans.

Some of them were heartbreaking.

"Our families and individuals are exhausted. They're exhausted and they're tired. They've been trying so hard to fight for their loved ones, to fight for themselves, to get access to treatment, to get access to mental health services," Delaware Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Director Elizabeth Romero said. "We need to do better."

Romero spoke at Tuesday's release of a three-year action plan from the Behavioral Health Consortium. The 25-member panel held listening sessions and held several meetings starting in October 2017.

 Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long, who chairs the Behavioral Health Consortium, said the initial report is a "road map, a launch pad."

The panel recommends several immediate actions: expansion of Naloxone, the overdose-reversing medication, and addressing the need for a continuum of care services for people who are battling substance abuse addiction: detox services, outpatient treatment and transitional housing.

The consortium makes short- and long-term recommendations on changing perceptions and stigman, education and prevention, family and community readiness, reaching at-risk children in schools, and the role of law enforcement and corrections.

"Thousands of families, advocates, medical professionals and policymakers across the state have stood up and said that we need to meet the addiction crisis head-on," State Senator Stephanie Hansen, D- 10th, said. "That's an incredible resource, and the Behavioral Health Consortium's focus has been keeping this train moving in the right direction."

"Our job now is to prioritize those action items and get to work," Governor John Carney said.

Reporter - Anchor

Mark Fowser is a veteran journalist in Delaware.