Wellmore_900 Photo by Jake Koteen Photography

Connecticut Community Foundation’s grant delivered medical equipment, exam tables and computers to Wellmore Behavioral Health’s new Promoting Integrated Care clinic in Waterbury.  [Photos by Jake Koteen Photography]

For Keion, the losses piled up.

His partner of 27 years walked away. Relationships with his kids disintegrated and he was let go from the job he had held for 12 years. Legal issues and physical pain dogged him. Family members’ trust in him frayed.

Keion’s drinking had started young and the downward spiral of addiction had taken hold. He realized he had to make a change.

Today, he credits Wellmore Behavioral Health in Waterbury for compassionately guiding him toward sobriety—and a new lease on life.

Intensive counseling during an extended stay at Wellmore’s supportive recovery house created deeper self-awareness, coping skills and strength.

And for the pain? Keion became the first patient treated at Wellmore’s new Promoting Integrated Care (PIC) program in Waterbury.

Novel PIC programs—where medical, dental, and behavioral health services are all provided under  one roof—operate around the country and were commissioned by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to address the soaring numbers of opioid overdoses in underserved population centers.

SAMHSA’s dollars covered the renovation of Wellmore’s space for the clinic, and a timely grant from Connecticut Community Foundation’s Healthy Communities Fund delivered new exam tables, furniture, computers and wall-mounted medical testing equipment.

The collaboration of Wellmore and StayWell is key to the project’s success. At Waterbury’s PIC, barriers to care fall away because Wellmore’s behavioral health staff teamed with StayWell Health Center’s medical and dental professionals to provide services in one place; patients aren’t sent around the city or region to get treated for different issues.

Gary Steck, CEO of Wellmore, said, “During my 20 years, this is the third project that the Foundation funded for Wellmore from the get-go. Of course, there’s strong data that integrated care will make things better, but mostly it’s a leap of faith…If there aren’t community foundation resources, it just doesn’t happen because no one ever lets us start, experiment, struggle, fiight with it.”

“One of the most exciting pieces about the project is that we’re developing a whole new approach to working with this clientele,” Steck said.

He points to the “open access” clinic hours requiring no appointments and to StayWell’s uniquely skilled primary healthcare providers trained to work with people with addiction and mental health concerns.

PIC also offers dental cleanings and screenings, diabetes management and health and wellness groups including smoking cessation, nutrition and healthy living. The clinic has some evening hours so employed patients don’t need to take time off.

“The key piece is that a generous amount of time is allocated to relationship building with one’s medical provider. It’s not some stranger that they only see once,” said Steck.

Of PIC, Keion said, “It was really convenient to have a primary doctor so close. If I had any questions, I didn’t have any problems—they were right there. I don’t have to schedule an appointment; I can almost get an answer or get a script filled immediately.”

Keion has been sober for seven months and his  pain has improved. He’s focused on “small goals”— renewing his driver’s license, updating his resume, rebuilding relationships with his kids and being patient with recovery.

“This place saved me,” he said. “They gave me confidence and they built me up… I can see the difference so that keeps me motivated to keep doing what I need to do.”

View more photos from Wellmore’s new Promoting Integrated Care clinic in Waterbury.