County programs receive grant to battle substances

Connect Inc. received $512,000 from the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs and Human Services April 1. The money came from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration grants.

Connect Inc. was one of 16 organizations that received grant money from the pool of $15 million. In a press release from Gov. Tom Wolf’s office, a formula “that equally considered the rate of individuals diagnosed with a substance use disorder and rate of overdose-related deaths in a county” decided which counties received the grants. The selected counties then chose an organization to invest in.

Amy Switalski, director of Greene County’s Housing Services and Family Resources Department, explained that Connect Inc. received Greene County’s grant funds because of established rapport.

“Connect Inc. for Greene County is who Greene County Human Services already collaborates with and contracts with for all of our [Department of Housing and Urban Development] services,” Switalski said. “So, they already have the infrastructure here…Plus, on top of that, there are other portions of [Southwestern Pennsylvania Human Services] who Connect is under that have drug and alcohol treatment. So, it’s a perfect fit.”

The grants are from April 1 to September 30, Switalski said.

“We wrote for a two–year grant, but I guess the money the federals are pushing down to the state is coming in increments,” Switalski said. “They are agreeing to six months at a time.”

According to the press release, one in five homeless people suffer from a “chronic substance use disorder.” Switalski said the problem is compounded because there are no services offered by HUD to provide temporary housing for offenders released from correctional institutions. This raises the likelihood of them returning to substance abuse.  

“These individuals have most likely burned all bridges and can’t go back to where they come from because of reuse, awkward situations and those kinds of things,” Switalski said. “They have nowhere to go, according to HUD. We can potentially help them with a home plan that’s safe. We’ll help support their recovery, while they are waiting for permanent supportive housing with the help of HUD.”

66 out of the 101 homeless people who became involved in Housing Services, from July 1 2018 to April 15, 2019, said they were experiencing drug and alcohol and mental health disorders. Now, with the state grant money, Switalski and Lyndsay Burrik, executive for Connect Inc.’s Community Wellness and Recovery, expect the organization to be able to aid more people than before.

“We expect to serve more individuals in need who weren’t eligible for other housing options, which would offer them stability through recovery,” Burrik said.