Taking Action to Improve Access and Equity in OUD Care

Taking Action to Improve Access and Equity in Opioid Use Disorder Care is the second grant program in RIZE’s access and equity portfolio following Innovations in Anti-Racism to Address the Opioid Overdose Crisis. In June 2023, RIZE awarded over $883,000 in grants to five nonprofits across the state, including four that are implementing measurable improvements in access and equity in opioid use disorder (OUD) care by centering the needs of people who identify as BIPOC. A fifth grant was awarded to a nonprofit to evaluate the success of the program.

The following organizations received grants for two-year projects:

  • Baystate Medical Center Emergency Department, the primary provider of emergency care for the City of Springfield and Hampden County, was awarded $199,974 toward its “Safer Smokes” program. Typical harm reduction programming focuses primarily on opioid and injection drug use and does not always provide equitable access to BIPOC communities, whose substance use, and ingestion methods, are more commonly inclusive of stimulant use via smoking or snorting. The “Safer Smokes” project provides patients with appropriate harm reduction supplies and naloxone in the ED, and links patients to community resources focused on their individual needs, including those who smoke or snort drugs.
  • Casa Esperanza, a bilingual/bicultural behavioral health center offering culturally focused integrated care, was awarded $198,088 to support the conversion of Conexiones, a 32-bed program that provides 24-hour inpatient services, into an enhanced program that provides a combined program of acute treatment services (ATS) and clinical stabilization services (CSS). Casa Esperanza’s flex ATS/CSS model provides culturally and linguistically tailored services that reduce return to substance use and homelessness risk, increase treatment adherence, promote treatment continuity, and improve health outcomes for Latine and other marginalized communities.
  • Metro Boston Alive and Massachusetts General Physicians Organization: Bridging the Gap: The Marcus Garvey House Community Revitalization Project was awarded $200,000 to extend the partnership between Metro Boston Alive, a nonprofit providing prevention services and recovery support services to individuals, youth and families, and the Bridge Clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital, a low-threshold, patient-centered, substance use disorder clinic. This partnership brings together the recovery expertise of Metro Boston Alive with the clinical skill of the MGH Bridge Clinic to provide comprehensive addiction treatment and recovery services to Black Bostonians. This grant has funded modest renovations and supports a community engagement leadership team to facilitate a durable Bridge Clinic presence and an enhanced spectrum of community engagement, education, outreach and health promotion activities to bridge the recovery-clinical divide.
  • Women’s Lunch Place, a day shelter and advocacy center for women experiencing homelessness, hunger and poverty, was awarded $200,000 to improve access to opioid use recovery for their guests by hiring a recovery navigator to facilitate office-based opioid treatment. The recovery navigator works in concert with their partners at Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program (BHCHP), which currently provides medical services at Women’s Lunch Place. The recovery navigator triages under the supervision of BHCHP, meets each guest where she is to learn about her trauma history, and creates an individualized plan for recovery, including treatment and referrals as appropriate. Additionally, the staff, diverse in language and culture, provides supportive services, behavioral health services, recovery programming, mentorship and referrals to their population of vulnerable women, the majority of whom identify as Black and Latine, in a low-threshold, safe, women-only setting.

Institute for Community Health serves as the evaluation partner to measure the success of the grant program and to increase the grantees’ capacity for data-driven decision making. The evaluation will document how the grants advance RIZE’s goal to better welcome, treat, support, and center the needs of people who identify as BIPOC and have OUD.