‘Together We RIZE’ Grants Awarded for Bold, Community-Driven Projects to Address Overdose Crisis

November 17, 2022
5th Anniversary Program Provides $600,000 to Six Nonprofits from Greater Boston to Berkshire County

BOSTON – RIZE Massachusetts, an independent nonprofit foundation solely dedicated to funding and creating solutions to end the overdose crisis, has awarded nearly $600,000 in grants to six promising community-driven projects.

Together We RIZE, created to mark the organization’s fifth anniversary, supports initiatives that will bolster the behavioral health workforce, build up harm reduction services and boost access and equity. Each recipient has received a one-year grant ranging from $98,000 to $100,000.

“The Together We RIZE grant program was informed by a collaborative approach with partners during our five-year fight to end the overdose crisis,” said RIZE President & CEO Julie Burns. “Working boldly together, we can meet the urgency of the moment and develop solutions to end the stigma associated with addiction, keep people safe from overdose and ensure access to quality care for anyone who wants it.”

The grantees and their projects are as follows:

Berkshire Harm Reduction, Pittsfield

Berkshire Harm Reduction provides services in three brick-and-mortar locations as-well-as mobile harm reduction across Berkshire County, which has the highest rate of opioid use disorder in Massachusetts. Services include testing and treatment for infectious diseases and STIs, syringe exchange, sharps disposal, overdose education and naloxone distribution. The nonprofit will enhance its model to better serve people who use drugs by purchasing two vehicles to support a low-barrier, peer-driven mobile harm reduction program to reach stigmatized and isolated people who use drugs, across a rural, 946-square-mile service area.

“Berkshire Harm Reduction is extremely grateful to RIZE Massachusetts for this generous grant, which will allow us to increase access to services throughout rural Berkshire County,” said Sarah DeJesus, Berkshire Harm Reduction’s Program Manager. “The purchase of these two vehicles will make significant immediate and long-term impacts for our community, with an emphasis on low-barrier, comprehensive harm reduction services, and engaging with the county’s most stigmatized and isolated populations.”

Brockton Neighborhood Health Center, Brockton

Brockton Neighborhood Health Center provides culturally and financially accessible health care to a patient population of 35,000, the majority of whom are low-income and Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC). The health center will expand its drug checking services and study best practices for use at mobile and fixed clinic sites. With increased capacity for drug checking, and the knowledge of the historic exploitation and marginalization of people who use drugs, they will work to better understand the expectations of BIPOC who use drugs and explore appropriate relationships between drug checking and medical care.

Grayken Center for Addiction at Boston Medical Center, Boston

The Grayken Center for Addiction at Boston Medical Center is a national hub for substance use disorder resources, providing treatment and support programs for patients of all backgrounds along with addiction education, policy, advocacy and thought leadership. The center will enhance a 24/7 overdose prevention hotline staffed by peers with lived experience by using “virtual spotting” remote technology that prompts a rescue response if an overdose occurs. More than 2,000 people die of overdose each year in Massachusetts, and the risk of fatal overdose increases exponentially when people use drugs alone.

North Suffolk Mental Health Association, Chelsea

North Suffolk Mental Health Association provides community-based mental health services to individuals and families in Greater Boston, including Hispanic/Latino populations with higher poverty rates and often lacking health insurance. The nonprofit will serve English- and Spanish-speaking parents in recovery by implementing It Takes a Village/Se Necesita un Pueblo, an evidence-based group therapy model co-facilitated by a clinician and a recovery coach. This model has been informed by a diverse Recovery Support Services team to address the impact of substance use disorder, mental illness and trauma on parent-child relationships.

St. Francis House, Boston

St. Francis House, the largest day shelter in Massachusetts, enables homeless or housing-insecure adults to meet their basic needs for shelter, safety, meals, clean clothes, showers and access to medical care. It offers drop-in services, workforce development programs, affordable housing search and housing stabilization services, and clinical and case management services. St. Francis House will launch an intensive outpatient treatment clinic for people experiencing substance use disorder and homelessness – the first-of-its-kind embedded within a day shelter with harm reduction services. The clinic will meet a crucial need by serving guests on-site when they are ready to accept treatment.

South Shore Health, Weymouth

South Shore Health is the largest independent health system in southeastern Massachusetts, serving 800,000 residents across 32 communities. It provides hospital-based addiction services through the Grayken Center for Treatment, as well as outpatient, office-based and mobile addiction treatment services. South Shore Health will increase hospital initiation of methadone – which has been proven to reduce illicit opioid use and risk of overdose – and connection to treatment. The model calls for peers following up with patients to ensure early retention in the program when the risk of dropout is high.

“South Shore Health’s Grayken Center for Treatment is thrilled to be selected for Together We RIZE funding. Our organizations share a common goal: to address the opioid epidemic through initiatives that remove barriers to care and services, while addressing fear, uncertainty and indecision about treatment,” said Dr. Todd Kerensky, Medical Director, Addiction Medicine at South Shore Health. “Our novel peer support program, bolstered by this generous grant, aligns patients with those who are already in recovery, to lend support, help reduce stigma and share first-hand experiences with medication treatment for opioid use disorder and recovery, in real time.”


About RIZE Massachusetts 

RIZE Massachusetts is an independent nonprofit foundation committed to achieving zero stigma and zero deaths related to opioid use disorder by investing in meaningful solutions and employing broad perspectives that will save lives, reduce harm and end the opioid epidemic in Massachusetts.  For more information, visit rizema.org.