RIZE Massachusetts Awards Nearly $1 Million in Grants to Community-Based Organizations to Enhance Opioid Harm Reduction Services and Link with Clinical Care

October 9, 2018

RIZE Massachusetts (RIZE), a nonprofit created to end the opioid overdose epidemic in Massachusetts, announced today that it is awarding nearly $1 million in grants that will fund pilot programs or existing collaborations among local community organizations to enhance harm reduction services. RIZE will award $999,215 to six community-based organizations over the next two years through this grant program.

RIZE was created to address the opioid overdose epidemic through a broad continuum of programs, from prevention to long-term sustainable recovery, and investments in geographic areas where more resources are needed. RIZE is committed to achieving zero stigma and zero deaths related to opioid use disorder by investing in the best solutions to save lives, reduce harm, and end the opioid overdose epidemic in Massachusetts.

“Individuals face many challenges in seeking care for opioid use disorders, particularly the most vulnerable populations. To provide the comprehensive and compassionate care needed to treat opioid use disorder and prevent illness and death, we need a continuum of services that integrates harm reduction measures with clinical treatment for addiction. By funding local organizations that provide harm reduction services, RIZE is helping to strengthen community resources for those at greatest risk in order to reduce stigma and save lives,” said Sarah E. Wakeman, MD, RIZE Chief Medical Officer and medical director for the Massachusetts General Hospital Substance Use Disorder Initiative.

Harm reduction is an approach that focuses on reducing the negative consequences of drug use and supporting individuals in embracing any positive change in their lives and health. The treatment can include a range of services such as syringe exchange, overdose education, and naloxone distribution. Harm reduction itself should not be seen as a way to end opioid use, but rather as a survival plan that keeps people alive and safe until they decide to move into a clinical treatment phase, and then hopefully, onto full recovery.

The goals of the grant awards are to expand existing harm reduction services with novel interventions, such as fentanyl test strips or other drug-checking measures and develop immediate access to low-threshold addiction treatment through clinical partnerships. Low-threshold programs focus on access and engagement rather than strict rules that could become barriers to treatment.

The six grantees were chosen from a broad pool of applicants. The organizations are:

• AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod
• Fenway Health
• Greater Lawrence Family Health Center
• HRH413
• Kraft Center Mobile Health Initiative
• Life Connection Center

The grantees AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod, Fenway Health, and Kraft Center Mobile Health Initiative were selected for their evidence-based treatments that feature an innovative approach to harm reduction with an opportunity to scale and replicate the models.

While Greater Lawrence Family Health Center, HRH413, and Life Connection Center were selected for providing grassroots harm reduction services and being deeply imbedded in their communities. All three of these organizations are in under-resourced, high-need areas and serve the most marginalized populations that may not seek care in a clinical setting.

About the six organizations selected:

• AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod (ASGCC), for over 35 years has worked to save lives through prevention, education and life-sustaining services that address public health crises and build healthy communities across Cape Cod and the Islands. ASGCC provides vital services to people living with HIV, works to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, and utilizes harm reduction practices to fight the deadly opioid epidemic on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

• The Kraft Center Mobile Health Initiative, launched in January 2018 by the Kraft Center for Community Health at Massachusetts General Hospital, is a mobile health program designed to bridge the gap between individuals with opioid use disorder (OUD) and effective treatment and increase access to care. It is a collaboration between Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program (BHCHP), the Boston Public Health Commission’s Access, Harm Reduction, Overdose Prevention and Education (AHOPE) program, and the GE Foundation. The Kraft Center Mobile Health Initiative brings on-demand opioid addiction treatment services directly to marginalized populations in Boston. The Kraft Mobile Health Initiative currently serves four Boston neighborhoods of Dudley Square, Fenway, Downtown Crossing and the West End — where data indicates high rates of overdose and, using precise, data-driven hot spotting deploys to those areas of the city indicating emerging need. The Kraft Mobile Health Initiative serves people who inject drugs who are primarily homeless and not currently connected to care. The Kraft Center was established in 2011 by a generous gift from Robert Kraft to expand access to high quality, cost effective health care for disadvantaged individuals and families.

• Fenway Health is one of the few Federally-Qualified Health Centers with an LGBTQ focus and an unparalleled commitment to providing culturally competent care for underserved populations regardless of their ability to pay. AIDS Action (AC), the public health division of Fenway Health, offers an array of services based on a harm reduction approach, including HIV/STD testing, syringe exchange, behavioral health, treatment adherence support, case management, housing search, and legal assistance. Ninety percent (90%) of AC clients live on an average household income of less than $10,000 per year, 85% have experienced an episode of housing instability in
their lifetime, and 80% are struggling with unmet mental health needs and/or substance use issues.

• Greater Lawrence Family Health Center (GLFHC) has operated as a Federally-Qualified Health Center in the Merrimack Valley for nearly 40 years. GLFHC’s mission is to improve and maintain the health of individuals and families in the Merrimack Valley by providing a network of high quality, comprehensive health care services and by training health care professionals who can respond to the needs of a culturally diverse population. Providing care to nearly 60,000 patients, GLFHC operates five main clinical facilities in Lawrence and Methuen, MA, two school-based health centers at Greater Lawrence Technical School in Andover, MA and Lawrence High School; and a facility located within Lawrence General Hospital. GLFHC also provides health care for the homeless at 14 community-based sites throughout the Merrimack Valley.

• HRH413 is a grassroots harm reduction organization of current and former people who use drugs. HRH413 provides prevention, education, training and consultation in Hampshire, Hampden and Berkshire counties. Their mission is to facilitate any positive change and to reduce the stigma associated with drug use. In the past year in Hampshire county alone, HRH413 has produced almost 300 unduplicated interactions.

• Life Connection Center is a multi-service community agency located in the heart of Lowell, MA. Originally founded by a small Brazilian church, they now operate in one of the area’s toughest neighborhoods. The organization uses unique engagement methods to operate as a true bridge builder, or connection point for providers and people. Through diverse community partnerships they can narrow the gap between difficult to engage persons and relevant health care providers.