Saving Lives, Improving Health

In June 2018, RIZE awarded $1.8 million in grants to four community-based organizations as part of our inaugural grant program Saving Lives, Improving Health: Redesigning Opioid Use Disorder Care to:

  • Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program
  • Brockton Neighborhood Health Center
  • Community Healthlink (Worcester)
  • Lynn Community Health Center

This followed a design grant phase in which $300,000 was awarded to six organizations. The Saving Lives grant program was created with the goal of establishing or expanding innovative systems of low-threshold, on-demand treatment to prevent death, supporting long-term treatment, and improving the health and quality of life for people experiencing opioid-use disorder. The four grantees were chosen for their collaborative treatment models that facilitate coordination among medical, behavioral, and community organizations.

Grantees Key Criteria

The grantees focused on five key areas:

  • Treating populations at greatest risk of overdose and death
  • Serving as the patients’ medical home while partnering with other community organizations to coordinate care and access to treatment
  • Treating co-occurring medical and psychiatric disorders
  • Delivering immediate access to medications for addiction treatment
  • Involving those with lived experience in planning, implementation, and feedback

As part of our commitment to embed learning and evaluation into our grant programs, an additional grant to the Institute for Community Health was awarded to measure the outcomes and effectiveness of the four programs. The goal of the evaluation is to inform improvements and produce evidence that will allow these programs to become sustainable and scalable solutions for possible implementation across the state.

Saving Lives has shown promising results.  The following data are from Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, Brockton Neighborhood Health Center and Lynn Community Health Center.  During the final reporting period encompassing the last 18 months of the two-year grant program, the grantees served a combined panel of 3,777 patients with opioid use disorder (OUD) – a 20% increase from baseline.  Of those patients, 1,297 (34%) were engaged in behavioral health care. Furthermore, 1,828 (48%) patients started medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD), a 61% increase from baseline.  For these patients engaged in MOUD, 55% were retained in treatment after six months and 48% were retained after 12 months.

Additional data from this cohort includes:

  • All grantees collaborated with other partners and services providers.  In partnership with the lead organizations, 19 entities collaborated in this program.
  • Over the two-year period, the cohort’s patient panel size increased by 20%
  • In the last reporting period, 64% of the panel identified as White, 20% as Black or African American, and 3% as other races or more than one race. Thirteen percent (13%) had an unknown race or did not self-identify their race.
  • Of the panel of patients being served during the final reporting period:
    • 91% were on public insurance
    • 60% had unstable housing
    • 41% had a diagnosed serious mental illness

* All demographic and treatment data were gleaned from the Saving Lives grantee organizations’ electronic health records and does not include data from Community Healthlink.

The evaluation also highlighted additional multi-level, interconnected impacts including:

  • Organizations increased capacity to treat patients with opioid use disorder and built upon community partnerships to serve those seeking treatment for OUD.
  • Staff increased their understanding of low barrier opioid use disorder treatment and harm reduction approaches.  Staff also felt more supported in their roles through training, counseling, more coordinated processes, and more team members with whom to engage in this work.
  • Patients experienced improved access to compassionate, non-stigmatizing care and established connections to health systems.
  • The broader community has become more aware of harm reduction and low barrier approaches to treatment.

In June 2020, RIZE extended the Saving Lives program for an additional year to support the initiatives at Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, Brockton Neighborhood Health Center, and Lynn Community Health Center.  This funding will provide stability for the grantees as they adjust program and service delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Similarly, the evaluation of this work by the Institute for Community Health has also been extended to continue to measure outcomes and effectiveness and inform program improvements.

“RIZE’s investment in our program will help us overcome the opioid crisis in Lynn and we look forward to sharing a successful model of treatment for our most vulnerable population with other communities in Massachusetts.”

Kiame Mahaniah, MD, CEO, Lynn Community Health Center