RIZE Massachusetts Awards $253,000 in Grants

January 4, 2024


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RIZE Massachusetts Awards $253,000 in Grants

As Overdose Crisis Continues, Projects Will Support Oral Health in Substance Use Treatment, Drug Supply Testing System, and Community Health Referral Networks

January 4, 2024

RIZE Massachusetts, an independent nonprofit foundation solely dedicated to funding and creating solutions to end the overdose crisis in Massachusetts, today announced that it has awarded more than $253,000 in grants for three innovative projects that address existing and emerging factors contributing to the overdose crisis and improve access and equity in substance use treatment services.

RIZE awarded:

  • $93,071 to UMass Chan Medical School to develop a new oral health intervention pilot program for people experiencing substance use disorder;
  • $100,000 to expand support for Network One, a regional drug supply checking network that collects data to inform harm reduction services, coordinated by Brandeis University, the Department of Public Health and drug testing sites statewide; and
  • $60,050 to the Institute for Health Equity Research, Evaluation and Policy of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers to study and improve community-based referral networks for substance use disorder care.

“As we strive to turn the tide of the overdose crisis, we continue to identify cutting-edge ideas and scalable solutions with our partners throughout the Commonwealth,” said RIZE President and CEO Julie Burns. “This series of grants will break down barriers to oral health care, optimize harm reduction strategies by monitoring the drug supply, and help improve access and equity at the community level so people of all backgrounds are connected to life-saving treatment.”

Few funders are focused on the intersection of substance use and oral health – despite the fact that people living with substance use disorder (SUD) often experience oral health issues, compounded by drug use, and face barriers to care. Even some medications for opioid use disorder, including suboxone and methadone, have potential oral side effects like dry mouth and mouth acidity.

RIZE will partner with Dr. Hugh Silk at UMass Chan Medical School to develop a scalable oral health intervention that can be offered in SUD provider outreach settings. These providers have strong, trusting relationships with patients and can assess their oral health and help coordinate dental care.

“As we work with individuals who are addressing their substance use disorder and they make positive changes in their lives around the substances, they start to address other health issues, including their oral health,” said Dr. Silk. “They face many barriers when trying to see dentists, however, and we are hoping this grant will help address those barriers. The substances that they use can make their teeth worse, combined with a diet and lack of personal hygiene that also resulted from substance use; and some of the treatment we use can also affect their teeth.

“For people to truly turn the corner and be able to gain confidence, hold down a job, and just be able to smile with friends, they need to be able to improve their oral health and that’s what this grant is all about,” he added.

Last spring, RIZE funded several drug testing sites that, in turn, launched Network One to validate xylazine test strips, which are used to identify the presence of the deadly drug, sometimes referred to as “tranq.” The network furthered the understanding of the evolving nature of the local drug supply and the effectiveness of harm reduction tools. RIZE will provide support to increase the network’s capacity and ability to identify and respond to supply trends.

“As the drug supply changes, it’s clear that a sustainable network to increase the validity and availability of harm reduction services and treatment for polysubstance use is a priority and a strong fit for our investment,” Burns said.

Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) who use drugs often face significant inequities in accessing effective SUD medications, treatment, recovery and harm reduction services. Recent studies show that programs that bring treatment into community-based locations may improve engagement of BIPOC individuals in SUD care.

In partnership with Dr. Cheryl Clark and the Institute for Health Equity Research, Evaluation and Policy, part of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, RIZE is funding research to better understand referral relationships between community-based organizations and community health centers.

“What we learn from this research could identify tangible changes that result in improved access to equitable and culturally relevant care,” Burns said.

About RIZE Massachusetts

RIZE Massachusetts Foundation is solely dedicated to funding and creating solutions to end the overdose crisis. Guided by those with lived experience and unafraid of new ideas, RIZE is building networks, designing programming, and supporting community partners who are using novel approaches to preventing overdose and increasing access to treatment. Learn more at www.rizema.org.