MILFORD — Expanded services and a new location are some benefits of two large federal grant awards recently received by Bridges Healthcare in Milford.

“It will help us enhance access to individuals in our catchment area of Milford, Orange and West Haven,” said Bridges' CEO Jennifer Fiorillo. “This initiative [called the CCBHC — Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic] is allowing us to form and develop an assertive community treatment team.”

Bridges Healthcare, Inc. is a 63-year-old nonprofit organization on Bridgeport Ave. that provides mental health and addiction recovery programs and services. It’s funded by the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and the Connecticut Department of Children and Families.

Bridges serves about 1,400 Milford residents annually. Another 600 come from West Haven and Orange. The $2 million grant award is from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Fiorillo called the additional funding would allow “ a big push to enhance access to a wide menu of vital behavioral health services that are necessary to provide the best care.”

Additionally, the grant enables Bridges to open a new clinical site in West Haven, for children through adults, and seniors. The new site is in renovation now, and will be providing services by early 2021.

As a result of the grant, there’ll also be enhanced access to specific services such as the ACT (Assertive Community Treatment Team) program at the Milford location. Fiorillo called ACT “an intensive treatment model for some of our highest risk and most vulnerable adult population. They are provided with a team of people that work with them intensively.”

According to Fiorillo, about 30 clients require that highest level of care.

“As part of that grant, we will offer a child case manager and more clinicians at the site,” she said. “We will be purchasing an RV for mobile primary care services to target some of our addiction population right where they might get treatment, to provide physical health screening.”

The second federal grant, which is $300,000 a year for five years, provides for an evidence-based model of prevention programming for all young people in the community, according to Fiorillo.

“Right now, we collaborate with the Milford Prevention Council to provide services in our catchment area for targeting underage drinking and drug use,” she said. “This expansion will allow us to develop coalitions to create a strategic framework targeting youth, underage drinking and drug use. It will extend out to Milford, Orange, Bethany, West Haven and Woodbridge.”

Adapting to the pandemic

When the coronavirus pandemic began in March, Bridges quickly adapted to the use of tele-health and tele-medicine in order for there not to be any gap in services, according to Fiorillo.

“We re-engaged all of our clients within a week’s time,” she said.

Bridges currently operates on a hybrid model and utilizes Zoom when not seeing clients in person.

“In person, we are addressing our highest risk clients,” Fiorillo said. “We have a live triage team for new intakes, our mobile crisis service operating, and we have a few smaller clinical groups operating out of our main site.”

Bridges’ intensive outpatient program is also operating in person. Those are individuals who need the highest level of care, such as those that have a substance use and mental health diagnosis, or are actively or recently been using drugs and need to be in an intensive program where they have regular contact with clinicians in a group setting.

According to Fiorillo, the staff at Bridges has seen increased levels of anxiety, depression and loneliness as a result of the pandemic.

“We have a COVID response team that meets weekly to go over the next steps, developing measures to keep people safe, and making sure proper PPE is on site,” she said.

sfox@milfordmirror.com