The Power of Partnership


The scourge of opioid abuse is in decline in Middletown, and officials give part of the credit to a community-wide attack on the problem in recent years involving Atrium Medical Center, the city government, and a host of other agencies.

Now, the former Heroin Summit has a new name – the Middletown Community Health Partnership – reflecting an expanded mission. The partnership is taking on not just drug addiction, but underlying factors, such as mental health problems and homelessness.

The partnership, created by city officials and hosted by Atrium, includes representatives in the fields of mental health, law enforcement, emergency medical services (EMS), social work, education, and the faith community.

“We’re getting all the right people together,” said Marquita Turner, Atrium’s chief operating officer and chief nursing officer. “It really is a model of how a community can get together to make a difference.”

City of Middletown Health Commissioner Jackie Phillips said more than a dozen meetings of the Heroin Summit, formed at the height of the crisis, led to changes in the policing of drug trafficking, a needle exchange program, a new EMS quick response team, prevention programs, and a drug court. Atrium also has expanded the bed space in its psychiatric unit.

Middletown Fire Chief Paul Lolli said the numbers show the partnership is making a difference. In 2017, Middletown EMS made 966 responses to opioid abuse, 77 of which involved fatal overdoses. Last year, there were 493 runs, including 53 fatalities. The first nine months of 2019 showed a further decline in runs and deaths from the same period in 2018.

“It’s just not as simple as dispatching (a medic),” Lolli said. “Law enforcement is only part of it. (The partnership) has brought the community together. Just one group is not going to be able to solve it.”

While opioid abuse is declining, drug addiction continues. Phillips said there’s evidence that some addicts are simply switching to methamphetamines.

“We’ve made a lot of progress, but we’re realizing we’ve got to expand our focus if we want to change the community,” she said.

Phillips is concerned there will be a “second wave” of problems surrounding the children of today’s opioid addicts. “We don’t even know the questions to ask to deal with that yet.”

Officials hope the Community Health Partnership will continue to evolve to meet changing health and addiction problems.

“I don’t think there’s going to be any day soon when we’re going to, quote-unquote, solve that (addiction) problem,” Atrium’s Turner said. “It’s going to be a journey. We’re looking at what’s going to be the strategy for the long haul.”



Focusing on a mission to improve the health of the communities it serves, Premier Health works with the City of Middletown on initiatives that address homelessness, mental health, and substance addictions.