Mass General Brigham and the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers (Mass League) are announcing $4.8 million in grants to support six substance use disorder (SUD) programs in the greater Boston area. Mass General Brigham and Mass League aim to support health centers in their efforts to increase access to, and retention in, SUD treatment and recovery support services for Black, Hispanic or Latine, and Native and tribal-identified people.
Each program will receive an annual grant of $200,000 over a span of four years. That money will be used to implement SUD treatment and services, including community education and engagement, organizational policy change, diverse staff hiring, and low threshold clinical SUD service expansion. The grant recipients are Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Program, Bowdoin Street Health Center, Codman Square Health Center, East Boston Neighborhood Health Center/South End Community Health Center, Harvard Street Neighborhood Health Center, and Mattapan Community Health Center.
These grants are part of a broader $15M initiative between Mass General Brigham and Mass League focused on three areas: expanding equitable and low barrier care for substance use disorder, growing and diversifying the mental health workforce, and providing seed funding for the health equity research and policy institute that will be a vehicle to research and evaluate these and other program implementations to demonstrate what has measurable impact. The funds stem from the $50M community health investment Mass General Brigham announced in 2021.
“This collaboration between our two organizations and the community health center grantees is a great example of the kind of work that can happen when academic health systems partner with local community health organizations to improve health outcomes and tackle inequities,” said Dr. Elsie Taveras, chief community health and health equity officer at Mass General Brigham. “By working collectively, we will increase community capacity for substance use disorder treatment, help address the needs raised by members of the communities we serve, and reduce overdose rates that have surged disproportionately in the Black, Latine, and Native American populations in recent years.”
Informing the initiative is a comprehensive community-based needs assessment, developed in collaboration with the Institute for Community Health. Creating the assessment involved forming and convening an advisory council of community leaders, patient and stakeholder interviews, focus groups, site visits, and community mapping with organizations serving Black, Hispanic or Latine, and Native or tribal-Identifying communities. The results build on existing research in order to create a blueprint for what is needed to effectively address the overdose crisis.
Some key elements of the assessment include a desire for care that addresses all types of substance use disorder, including stimulant, alcohol, and opioid use; addressing hesitancy toward medication treatment; offering holistic, multimodal treatment options; and addressing social determinants of health, like housing.
“With the overwhelming need for substance use disorder treatment and support in our communities and the deepening inequities in the overdose crisis, we should be dropping barriers to care and opening doors, and that's simply not how it's been historically. With these new grants, we’re taking models that have proven successful and helping to implement them in community health centers—expanding access to equitable, low-threshold treatment closer to home,” said Dr. Sarah Wakeman, senior medical director for substance use disorder at Mass General Brigham. “Substance use disorder, for many people, is a chronic health condition that’s treated over months to years. The ultimate goal is not only to implement these programs but make them sustainable resources in the communities.”
Based on the group’s initial research and community feedback, the goals for the six SUD grantees are:
“The Mass League is proud to partner with Mass General Brigham on a program that will have an immediate impact with six Boston area community health centers that are focused on addressing substance use disorder for individuals in dire need in communities of color,” said Michael Curry, Esq., President and CEO of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers. “The first steps in addressing this crisis are allocating financial resources to implement substance use disorder treatment through community engagement and education, organizational policy change, diverse staff hiring, and expanding low threshold clinical substance use disorder services.”
Leaders from Mass League and Mass General Brigham shared the importance and impact of this work in a recent Boston Globe Op-Ed. Understanding the voices and concerns from those living in local communities is foundational to the ongoing SUD strategy and will be integral to the implementation of these new and expanded SUD programs.
Mass General Brigham is an integrated academic health care system, uniting great minds to solve the hardest problems in medicine for our communities and the world. Mass General Brigham connects a full continuum of care across a system of academic medical centers, community and specialty hospitals, a health insurance plan, physician networks, community health centers, home care, and long-term care services. Mass General Brigham is a nonprofit organization committed to patient care, research, teaching, and service to the community. In addition, Mass General Brigham is one of the nation’s leading biomedical research organizations with several Harvard Medical School teaching hospitals. For more information, please visit massgeneralbrigham.org.
The Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers (the League) is a 501 (c)(3) membership organization supporting and representing the Commonwealth’s 52 community health centers, which offer primary and preventive care to more than one million residents. The League serves as an information resource on community-based primary care to policymakers, opinion leaders, and the media. It provides a wide range of technical assistance to its health center members, including advocacy on health policy issues, support for workforce development, clinical care and technology initiatives, and guidance to state leaders and community-based organizations seeking to open health centers.