Innovations in Anti-Racism to Address the Opioid Overdose Crisis

In June 2021, RIZE created Innovations in Anti-Racism to Address the Opioid Overdose Crisis to reduce racism in the health system and improve access to addiction treatment for Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) who are unfairly subjected to higher incarceration rates, decreased access to care, separation of families, and disparities in overdose fatalities.  

After completing a design phase, four organizations implemented plans to develop or expand interventions in harm reduction, treatment, and recovery programs specifically for BIPOC communities.

RIZE awarded grants for two-year projects to the following organizations:

  • Boston Public Health Commission created a comprehensive safer smoking and snorting initiative designed and informed by BIPOC who use drugs. AHOPE will also expand its drug checking initiative within predominantly minority neighborhoods of Boston, including Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan. 
  • Casa Esperanza expanded their Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System-Spanish (CASA-CHESS) language access application which addresses relapse prevention and offers peer support, audio-based information on substance use disorders (SUD), medication adherence, and direct access to a support team.  Casa Esperanza will also address racial and ethnic disparities in access to SUD treatment, reduce isolation among Spanish speakers, strengthen recovery networks, reduce the impacts of stigma, and disseminate information regarding COVID-19.  
  • Codman Square Health Center incorporated racial equity into its culture, programming, and evaluation processes.  By working with their community (including SUD patients), they will review program policies, best practices, and workflows.  Additionally, Codman intends to pilot their own internal training modules with the goal of combatting racism within their organization.  
  • Prisoners’ Legal Services, in collaboration with Boston Medical Center, created the first and only medical-legal clinic in the country advocating for incarcerated people, and the only to focus on access to SUD treatment for BIPOC prisoners. The project will include further partnerships with the American Civil Liberties Union, Association for Behavioral Health, Boston University Law School, and Harvard University’s Prison Legal Assistance Project.

          The Health Equity Lab (HERLab) at the Cambridge Health Alliance was the evaluator of the Innovations in Anti-Racism to Address the Opioid Crisis program and conducted a participatory evaluation, involving community-based organizations and stakeholders along with quantitative and qualitative measures.

          In June 2023, RIZE launched the second grant program in our access and equity portfolio, Taking Action to Improve Access and Equity in Opioid Use Disorder Care.