Innovations in Anti-Racism to Address the Opioid Overdose Crisis

RIZE created Innovations in Anti-Racism to Address the Opioid Overdose Crisis, a new, $600,000 grant program designed to reduce racism in the health system and to improve access to evidence-based addiction treatment for Black, Latinx and Indigenous populations.  Design-phase grants of $25,000 were recently awarded to four organizations to develop or expand an intervention in harm reduction, treatment, or recovery programs.  At the end of the five-month design phase, two of the organizations that demonstrate the greatest potential in fulfilling the goals of the program will receive two-year implementation grants.  The design grantees are:

  • Boston Public Health Commission, which will use the grant to create a comprehensive safer smoking and safer snorting initiative designed and informed by Black, Latinx and Indigenous people who use drugs and community partners in Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan. Outreach by the commission has found that Black, Latinx and Indigenous people are more likely to choose snorting and smoking over injection at least some of the times if they have the appropriate supplies.  Unsafe or shared supplies for snorting or smoking put people at risk of hepatitis C transmission, HIV, and both viral and bacterial infections.  The commission will use the initiative to also facilitate engagement that can lead individuals to other harm reduction options or clinical treatment.


  • Casa Esperanza, which will use the funding to expand the use of the Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System-Spanish (CASA-CHESS) language access application to address racial and ethnic disparities in access to substance use disorder (SUD) treatment, reduce isolation among Spanish speakers, strengthen recovery networks, reduce the impacts of stigma, and disseminate information regarding COVID-19. Casa Esperanza will engage 40 patients in its residential treatment programs to help identify racial equity and COVID-19 content gaps and increase provider and public understanding of the experiences of Spanish-speaking patients.


  • Codman Square Health Center, which will use the grant to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment of their SUD services through a racial justice lens, including examining how workflows and protocols are determined; what services may be lacking; and to what extent the community they serve is involved in this process. This project will also focus on measuring the efficacy of the health center’s approaches with the goal of refining service delivery.  Codman Square also hopes to address the community’s experiences of overdose epidemic and overlapping racism as it relates to people who use drugs.


  • Prisoners’ Legal Services, which will use the funding to plan and prepare for an innovative statewide project that will advocate for access to evidence-based substance use treatment for incarcerated individuals as a necessary public health and race equity treatment model. The project is a medical advocacy partnership with Boston Medical Center Internal Medicine residents and faculty to conduct individual and systemic advocacy with the goal of achieving meaningful access to evidence-based treatment to incarcerated individuals in the Commonwealth.

“RIZE’s investment in our program will help us overcome the opioid crisis in Lynn and we look forward to sharing a successful model of treatment for our most vulnerable population with other communities in Massachusetts.”

Kiame Mahaniah, MD, CEO, Lynn Community Health Center