Executive Director Named

June 27, 2017

RIZE Massachusetts, a new private sector-funded initiative dedicated to addressing substance use disorders, reducing deaths from the opioid epidemic and improving the lives of individuals and families who are affected by substance use disorders, has named Julie Burns as its Executive Director. Burns was selected by the Board of RIZE, which includes representatives from the health care, business, and advocacy community.

Julie Burns starts August 14, and comes to RIZE from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Massachusetts where she has been Senior Director of Administration and Communications since 2013, with responsibility for communication strategy, strategic planning, and administration. Prior to joining BCBSMA in September 2010, Ms. Burns worked for Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino in various roles, including deputy chief of staff, director of the Office of Arts, Tourism, and Special Events, president of the Fund for Boston Neighborhoods, and executive director of Boston 2004, Inc., the not-for-profit, non-partisan corporation created to organize Boston’s preparations for the Democratic National Convention. Her other professional experience includes positions at the law firm of Holland & Knight in the government affairs practice, the Dewey Square Group, a grassroots and communications consulting firm, and the United States Senate in the office of Senator Charles S. Robb (D-VA).

She is a member of Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s Office of Recovery Services Substance Use Prevention advisory board. Ms. Burns also serves on the boards of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, Dress for Success Boston, and the John F. Kennedy Library New Frontier Network.

She received her bachelor of arts in political science from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, has a graduate certificate in public relations from Emerson College, and has completed senior executive programs at Babson University, Bentley University, and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

RIZE Massachusetts was launched March 28, 2017 at a gathering with 60 leaders from the health care, business, and advocacy community. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, Attorney General Maura Healey, and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh each spoke at the event that was emceed by Jack Connors. The goal of RIZE is to raise $50 million to fund programs throughout Massachusetts that are informed by science, rigorous and evidence-based, and are able to be replicated.

Grants from RIZE will address the full continuum of substance use disorders from prevention to treatment to long-term sustainable recovery. The organization will focus its funding on specific areas where help is needed most.

In making the announcement of Julie Burns as Executive Director, RIZE Board Chair David Torchiana, MD, President and CEO of Mass General Brigham said he was pleased that Burns would be leading the new organization. “Julie Burns’ background in health care, government, and non-profit advocacy will be a tremendous asset to RIZE. There is no quick fix or one-size-fits-all approach to treatment for substance use disorders. Evidence increasingly tells us that addiction is a chronic disease, and most individuals with substance use disorders have periods of relapse and recovery over many years,” said Dr. Torchiana.

“We believe that everyone in our community has been touched in some way by the opioid epidemic — family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors – and we all have a responsibility to get involved in solving this problem. Too many people are afraid to reach out for help for themselves or their family members, and they keep their addiction a secret because of stigma,” said Joanne Peterson, Founder and Executive Director of Learn to Cope, and a RIZE Board Member.

“The private sector must make the commitment to support RIZE: to help the communities in which we work end the senseless deaths of our friends and neighbors, and within our own families, while combating the stigma of addiction,” said David Barash, MD, Chief Medical Officer, GE Foundation, and a RIZE Board Member. “There’s a business imperative, too. Substance use disorders cost employers dearly in talent and lost productivity.”

RIZE Massachusetts expects to release its first request for funding proposals in the fall.