RIZE Massachusetts Foundation (RIZE) is taking steps to ensure ongoing operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
RIZE Massachusetts Foundation (RIZE) is taking steps to ensure ongoing operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. A priority is to keep our staff safe and healthy so we can continue to support our community partners in the field. We are frequently communicating with these partners, as well as other stakeholders and funders, to position RIZE to respond in an impactful way.
According to experts, COVID-19 could hit people with opioid use disorder (OUD) particularly hard. Risks for people with addiction include decreased access to health care, housing insecurity, inability to practice social distancing, challenges in accessing harm reduction or treatment services, and harm caused by involvement with the criminal justice system. These risks are likely to only intensify, especially as the duration of the pandemic lengthens. Ensuring that people who use drugs and people with addiction are able to access sterile injection equipment, naloxone, and medications like methadone and buprenorphine is crucial at this time; thankfully SAMHSA and the Mass. Bureau of Substance Addiction Services have recently released guidance on regulation changes for methadone treatment. In addition, ongoing efforts to address the very real risks for people experiencing homelessness and preparations for what will happen if COVID-19 transmission starts in shelters or among street-involved groups are essential.
Hospitals and clinics across the Commonwealth are already under strain. They are rapidly adjusting their standard operating procedures to face the evolving pandemic. Non-clinical spaces are being repurposed to see patients, and staff will be called upon to serve roles they were not hired for to fill workforce shortages.
Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, writes in a recent blog post that, “Limited access to health care puts people with addiction at greater risk for many illnesses, but if hospitals and clinics are pushed to their capacity, it could be that people with addiction—who are already stigmatized and underserved by the healthcare system—will experience even greater barriers to treatment.”
As the crisis has unfolded, we reached out to our community partners and identified the most pressing challenges in maintaining access to opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment and recovery services in light of COVID-19. We learned about things that they were struggling to manage and where additional resources were needed to achieve a better outcome and we made the decision to step forward with some immediate relief.
On March 19, RIZE provided 25 of our community partners across the Commonwealth with one-time, rapid response grants totaling $190,000 to help support – and show gratitude for – our colleagues providing clinical and direct care to our most vulnerable populations under the extremely challenging circumstances of a pandemic. By gathering this information, and helping to design and fund innovative solutions, RIZE is providing much needed assistance during a time of tremendous uncertainty.
We truly are better together, and together we will be relentless in our fight to keep people with OUD, and the people who care for them, safe during this unprecedented public health crisis.
Please help support RIZE’s Rapid Response Fund to ensure that those who suffer from OUD continue to get the care that they deserve. If you need to reach us in the coming days, in keeping with federal and state guidance, we are working remotely and can easily be reached via email. Thank you.
Julie Burns, President & CEO