The following is a media release from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office submitted to SOURCE media.
BOSTON – As the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to exacerbate racial disparities in our health care system, Attorney General Maura Healey today, February 9 announced that $1.5 million has been awarded to 16 organizations across the state as part of her office’s new grant program to promote equity in treatment programs and recovery services for opioid use disorder (OUD) in Massachusetts.
The grant program—Promoting Cultural Humility in Opioid Use Disorder Treatment—supports treatment and recovery programs committed to standards that serve Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) in Massachusetts. AG Healey led a virtual roundtable today to announce the grant recipients and discuss with grantees how they plan to use the funds to address the disparities that exist.
“The opioid epidemic is far from over, and the COVID-19 crisis has only exacerbated barriers to care that have systemically and disproportionately harmed communities of color for far too long,” said Healey. “We have prioritized equity in our grant programs and awarded these funds to organizations that are committed to providing accessible recovery and treatment services to diverse patients across our state.”
Systemic issues, including health care provider biases, limited public health research, and inadequate news coverage have mischaracterized the opioid epidemic as chiefly impacting white suburban and rural communities. However, communities of color are increasingly affected by opioid use disorder. According to data from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, opioid-related overdose deaths increased for Hispanic and Black non-Hispanic communities between 2018 and 2019.
Treatment inequities and devastatingly high mortality rates among communities of color require recovery services that are diverse and not “one size fits all.” A recent report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reveals that Black and Latinx people have substantially lower access to behavioral health and substance use treatment services and too often experience less culturally responsive care.
The grants were awarded to treatment programs that practice cultural humility by centering patients’ unique needs and experiences and demonstrate an understanding of providers’ biases and the barriers to care for diverse patients.
Grant funds were awarded to the following organizations:
- MA Organization for Addiction Recovery (Statewide): This statewide addiction advocacy organization will use the funding to increase access of BIPOC communities to recovery coaching with a focus on services for pregnant or parenting women, veterans, and recently incarcerated individuals who are actively engaged in treatment.
“Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery is pleased to receive this grant from Attorney General Maura Healey to improve outreach to communities of color affected by addiction, support people in recovery, and educate the public about the value of recovery,” said Maryanne Frangules, Executive Director of Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery (MOAR).
- Home Base Program (Statewide): The grant funding will help develop and implement training programs for veteran outreach coordinators to better assist BIPOC veterans who seek OUD treatment, including medication-assisted treatment and therapy.
“These funds will allow Home Base to develop a training curricula for frontline staff to support patient-centered care of BIPOC veterans in need of OUD treatment,” said Dr. Louis Chow,Senior Director for Training and Network Developmentat the Home Base Program. “The curricula will be developed to foster three core elements of cultural humility – principles of mutual learning and self-reflection, recognition of power imbalances, and recognition of implicit biases – with the goal of delivering culturally sensitive, equitable, and effective clinical care for those we serve.”
- Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program (Greater Boston): BHCHP will use the grant award to fund a recovery support advocate with lived experience in the communities the program serves. The program will provide recovery support and harm reduction services to Black and Latinx populations experiencing homelessness in Greater Boston.
- Victory Programs (Suffolk, Essex, and Norfolk Counties): Funding will be used to help lower barriers to OUD treatment for populations experiencing homelessness or housing instability, specifically through recruitment/retention initiatives for bilingual staff, evidence-based trainings in cultural humility and racial equity, and programmatic evaluation based on community and client input.
“Victory Programs is, yet again, encouraged by the Attorney General’s Office, under AG Healey’s leadership, multi-disciplinary approach to combating the opioid epidemic,” Sarah Porter, Executive Director, Victory Programs. “This grant allows Victory Programs to focus on cultural humility training, which includes the identification and elimination of specific barriers BIPOC face for successful treatment, and on our recruitment and retention of staff of color.”
- Boston Medical Center (Greater Boston): The grant funds will bolster BMC’s program that serves 125 to 150 mother-baby pairs each year and will specifically help to further incorporate trauma-informed services, Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) standards, and culturally sensitive practices in treatment for mothers with OUD. It will also be used to help provide critical support to infants born with neonatal withdrawal syndrome and assist new mothers with the challenges of caring for newborns who are experiencing withdrawals.
- Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston): MGH’s Substance Use Disorder Bridge Clinic will use grant funds to tailor peer support to women of color with OUD who are also impacted by commercial sex exploitation and are more likely to require services beyond the average treatment time. The Bridge Clinic will also facilitate a peer referral pathway for this client group from the Suffolk County House of Correction.
“Women of color are disproportionately affected by the intersection of opioid use disorder (OUD) and commercial sexual exploitation (CSE), but experiences of trauma, racism, and stigma related to addiction and the sex trade create deep distrust of healthcare,” said Abigail Judge, PhD, of the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, who leads a project to improve services for women jointly affected by substance use and commercial sexual exploitation. “This grant will allow our team at Mass General Hospital’s Bridge Clinic to increase access to OUD/CSE care for women of color through an expansion of specialized peer support, an outreach-based referral pathway and evaluation of this model through conversation with survivors and other community stakeholders.”
- City of Somerville: Somerville will partner with a local clinic to provide cultural humility training for two full-time bilingual recovery navigators who speak Spanish, Portuguese, and/or Haitian Creole. The new recovery navigators will be tasked with increasing outreach and support to underserved populations, including immigrant populations.
- Lynn Community Health Center: The funds will be used to increase bilingual staff capacity and hire staff members more reflective of impacted communities for the “Lynn Moving Upstream Project.” This project is a prevention and recovery program that assists children and adolescents in the Lynn Public Schools system who are at high risk for OUD.
- Jewish Family & Children’s Service (Essex, Middlesex, and Suffolk Counties): The organization will use funds to increase its capacity to serve Latinx parents with OUD who have children under five years old through its Center for Early Relationship Support. The program will prioritize outreach to Latinx communities, provide bilingual services, offer a Spanish-based curriculum, and provide staff with CLAS training.
- Charles River Community Health Center (Allston-Brighton, Waltham, Framingham/MetroWest): CRCHC will utilize grant funding to provide increased access to BIPOC patients with a history of OUD by implementing CLAS on an organizational level, training staff, and supporting an interdisciplinary team that works with BIPOC OUD patients.
- Steppingstone Incorporated (New Bedford and Surrounding Communities): The organization, which provides outpatient OUD treatment, will use grant funds to increase Spanish-speaking staff, including a prescriber and licensed clinician, as well as provide cultural humility training for staff.
“We are so excited to partner with the Massachusetts Office of Attorney General and reach this underserved population in the greater New Bedford area,” said Laura Washington, Director of Steppingstone’s Cultural Humility Project and Project SOAR. “We are privileged to have the opportunity to address disparities in our community through this grant and assist the Hispanic community and other underserved populations of color in our area on their path to recovery.”
- Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe (Primarily Barnstable and Plymouth Counties): The grant will fund a full-time Peer Recovery Specialist, who will provide sober living assistance to tribal members and tailor care to the individualized needs of community members. Services will be grounded in Wampanoag cultural teachings and will incorporate language from the once dormant Wôpanâak language.
“The Mashpee Wampanoag are indigenous people in this Land with a tenure on the Land spanning 12,000 years of history; yet we are no less vulnerable to the ravages of addiction; in fact we are four times more likely to become addicted and die of overdose due to addiction,” said Jessie Little Doe Baird, Vice Chairwoman, Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. “Because our contact history with colonialism includes land and resource deprivation, poverty and ongoing and persistent problems with racism, self-medication and addiction have been able to gain a foothold within our tribal nation. Wampanoag need the Land, ceremony, resources, and each other to live in a healthy way. When these things are disrupted, cultural injury occurs. These wounds need the culture itself to help in healing. Resources and partnerships are key to developing and delivering culturally appropriate and culturally competent services. We look forward to engaging with one another and our partners in this continued work on the good road to healing.”
- River to Recovery (Fall River and Surrounding Communities): Funds will allow for significant outreach to Black and Latinx populations in Fall River while recruiting and training a new recovery coach from the communities served.
- Opening the Word Peer Recovery Center (Webster, Dudley, Oxford, Douglas and Southbridge): Grant funds will be utilized to hire group recovery facilitators, Spanish-speaking staff members, and recovery coaches from the communities the center serves, as well as to implement training on cultural humility and CLAS standards.
“This funding will allow us to do intentional outreach to men and women of all races and ethnicities in recovery from substance use disorder within our catchment area, and to create programs in which their specific stories will be heard and their recovery needs met,” said The Rev. Janice Ford, President, Board of Directors, Opening the Word Peer Recovery Center, Inc. “We are honored and delighted to be a grant recipient.”
- Gándara Mental Health Center (Springfield/Holyoke): The funding will help the organization increase services to Latinx and Black populations and incorporate cultural humility into Massachusetts Certified Recovery Coach trainings. This organization aims to hire 20 bilingual Recovery Coaches who will be able to aid an estimated 400 community members.
“We are thrilled to be a part of the Promoting Cultural Humility in Opioid Use Disorder Treatment Grant which supports Gándara Center in implementing a Recovery Coach Training initiative designed to increase access for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) by reducing stigma and diminishing the power imbalance through the increased use of peer recovery coaching,” said Lois Nesci, CEO of the Gándara Center.
- Franklin County Sheriff’s Department/Opioid Task Force (Franklin County/North Quabbin Region): The grant funding will help expand access for BIPOC individuals impacted by OUD via significant staff training, identification of barriers to access, appropriate outreach, and support for patient-centered pathways for recovery.
“Reducing racial disparities within the public health and criminal justice systems is crucial to improving health outcomes for Black, Indigenous and people of color, especially those affected by opioid misuse,” said Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan and Co-Chair of the Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and the North Quabbin Region. “Our participation in this grant program will allow us to implement a robust cultural humility component to our post-overdose follow-up efforts in our rural region.”
“This grant award will provide the Opioid Task Force with the resources it needs to fulfill a vision that the late Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Ralph D. Gants had for the Commonwealth,” said Register John F. Merrigan and Co-Chair of the Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and the North Quabbin Region. “He advocated tirelessly for justice for all; this includes health equity. These funds will ensure that everyone has access to life-saving opioid treatment and recovery services, especially for people of color.”
“In Massachusetts, Black and Latinx populations are overrepresented in the criminal justice system,” said Sheriff Christopher J. Donelan and Co-Chair of the Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and the North Quabbin Region. “Many also suffer from substance use disorders. Our cultural humility initiative will help us use data and other evidence-based strategies to address racial inequities in our quest to prevent opioid-related overdoses.”
This grant program is funded by a settlement that the AG’s Office reached with Injured Workers Pharmacy for unlawful and dangerous prescription drug dispensing practices.