BOSTON (Oct. 15, 2020) – RIZE Massachusetts, an independent nonprofit foundation working to end the opioid overdose epidemic in Massachusetts, announced today that it is investing nearly $1.1 million in grant programs designed to improve racial equity in healthcare and to continue support for harm reduction services.
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 addiction treatment for Black, Latinx and Indigenous populations. The foundation also extended its Enabling Health: Enhancing Harm Reduction Services in Massachusetts grant program and will distribute an additional $490,171 to six grantees.
“The coronavirus pandemic has further exposed the complexities of the opioid overdose epidemic and the difficulties faced by communities, providers and people living with opioid use disorder,” said Julie Burns, President and CEO of RIZE. “Our creation of the Innovations in Anti-Racism grant program and our extension of the Enabling Health grants will give our partners the tools they need to better support vulnerable and underserved individuals during these difficult times.”
The $600,000 Innovations in Anti-Racism grant program includes $25,000 design-phase grants 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 will receive two-year grants of up to $250,000 each. The 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.
“Our vision for the Innovations in Anti-Racism grant program is to produce positive, meaningful results in reducing racism and improving access to evidence-based addiction treatment by reducing the stigma and systemic barriers faced by Black, Latinx and Indigenous people in the Commonwealth,” Burns said.
RIZE initially distributed nearly $1.2 million in October 2018 for the two-year Enabling Health: Enhancing Harm Reduction Services grant program, with the objectives of investing in novel harm reduction interventions and the development of low threshold addiction treatment. The grantees are:
- AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod in Hyannis;
- Fenway Community Health Center in Boston;
- Greater Lawrence Family Health Center in Lawrence;
- Kraft Center for Community Health/AHOPE in Boston;
- HRH413 in Northampton; and
- Life Connection Center in Lowell.
The harm reduction services deployed by the grantees provide support to individuals living with opioid use disorder through positive interventions like overdose education, syringe services and naloxone distribution. Program outcomes since 2019 include the distribution and return of 50,000 clean syringes a month, 250 individuals engaged through mobile outreach vans per week, and growth in engaging minority clients and women.
The additional year of funding, through Sept. 30, 2021, will provide stability for the grantees as they make programmatic adjustments to continue services during COVID-19 and will allow RIZE to learn about the impacts the pandemic has on harm reduction services.
“In less than two years, these six grantees have demonstrated that thoughtful, person-centered interventions – backed by medicine and science – lead to positive outcomes for individuals and their communities,” said Dr. Sarah Wakeman, RIZE Chief Medical Officer and Medical Director for the Massachusetts General Hospital Substance Use Disorder Initiative. “While the COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts on our efforts to fight the opioid overdose epidemic are cause for alarm, these organizations have seen great success in their efforts to makes changes – including the adoption of telehealth – to meet their clients’ needs.”