RIZE Massachusetts Foundation awards more than $1M in grants for harm reduction services and research projects with long-term impact on opioid crisis

October 23, 2019

RIZE Massachusetts Foundation (RIZE), an independent nonprofit foundation working to end the opioid epidemic in Massachusetts, announced today that it is awarding more than $1 million in grants to support harm reduction services and research projects that will have long-term impact on the opioid crisis in Massachusetts.

“RIZE advances the work of local organizations at the front lines of this crisis and supports the research needed to identify meaningful and long-lasting solutions,” said Steve Pollock, President and CEO of DentaQuest and Chair of the RIZE Board of Directors.

RIZE awarded nearly $600,000 to six community-based organizations in the second year of funding for its Enabling Health: Improving Harm Reduction Services in Massachusetts grant program. The six grantees are:
• AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod of Hyannis
• Fenway Health of Boston
• Greater Lawrence Family Health Center of Lawrence
• HRH413 of Northampton
• Kraft Center Mobile Health Initiative of Boston
• Life Connection Center of Lowell

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 interventions can include a range of services such as overdose education, syringe services, and naloxone distribution.

The grantees were chosen because they have been providing evidence-based treatments to populations most adversely affected by the opioid crisis. They provide care through mobile health units, one-on-one harm reduction services, outreach in under-resourced communities, and to the hardest to reach, such as those experiencing homelessness.

Each month, the six programs collectively engage an average of 1,000 clients, distribute over 60,000 clean syringes and collect more than 70,000, and distribute more than 2,000 naloxone kits. These programs have connected individuals to clinical care and treatment, expanded their programing to offer more on-site services such as HIV/AIDS screening, and engaged with new partners to enhance community services.“We can prevent death and improve care for people suffering from opioid use disorder if we increase harm reduction services and integrate them with access to clinical addiction treatment programs. The first year of this program has demonstrated that harm reduction and low-threshold addiction treatment can help individuals make informed decisions about treatment options and services,” said Julie Burns, President and CEO, RIZE Massachusetts Foundation. “We are grateful to RIZE for partnering with us in the fight to end the opioid epidemic,” said Greater Lawrence Family Health Center President and CEO John F. Silva. “This additional grant money enables us to increase harm reduction services on our Mobile Health Unit and help more of our most vulnerable patients – people who are homeless and using substances. Because of the past support, GLFHC has been able to treat more than 120 patients on the Mobile Health Unit with substance use issues.”

RIZE also awarded nearly $500,000 to three organizations—Brandeis University, the Boston Public Health Commission, and the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine—that launched its Insights and Solutions: Massachusetts Opioid Crisis grant program.

“RIZE is committed to supporting research that will help change how addiction is recognized by the health care industry that potentially leads to actionable policy changes,” said Sarah Wakeman, MD, RIZE Chief Medical Officer and Medical Director for the Massachusetts General Hospital Substance Use Disorder Initiative. “The more we know about how to treat substance use disorders, the more we can help remove the stigma and get patients the care they need.”

The Brandeis University research project will explore how isolated physician networks can negatively impact care coordination and information sharing among physicians. The goal of the project is to identify system-level factors associated with the development and sustaining of buprenorphine prescribing in a community, in particular structural properties of prescriber patient-sharing networks in which waivered physicians are embedded, and how these properties vary in relation to community demographics including racial/ethnic makeup.

Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC), in collaboration with the Institute for Community Health and Boston Medical Center (BMC), will examine the experiences and service-seeking behaviors of diverse Boston residents in the 30 days following an opioid overdose in order to understand factors that influence access to treatment and identify opportunities for systems change. Part of the research includes interviewing participants from BPHC’s Post Overdose Response Team, the city of Boston’s Engagement Center, and participants who have been hospitalized for an opioid overdose at BMC or accessed services at BMC’s Project TRUST.

Tufts University School of Dental Medicine’s project will deliver and evaluate a series of 10 validated controlled substance risk mitigation training modules to Massachusetts practicing dentists, dental hygienists, and oral surgeons.

“In a recent report, the Boston Public Health Commission identified racial inequities in accessing care, specifically that Black and Latinx residents have much lower odds of receiving subsequent treatment following an overdose,” said Monica Valdez Lupi, Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission. “This new and important grant funding will empower a city-wide team of collaborators to not only illuminate new understanding for why these racial inequities may exist but also develop lived-experience based recommendations that our healthcare providers may act upon.”