Rita Nieves, RN, MPH, LICSW, a nationally known public health leader with over 35 years of professional experience as a nurse, social work clinician, public health administrator, and community advocate was appointed the interim Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) in December 2019.
As Executive Director of the BPHC, the city's health department, Ms. Nieves manages a $162M budget and leads 1,100 employees. In this role, her portfolio includes Boston Emergency Medical Services, several substance use treatment facilities, and the largest homeless services program in New England. As Executive Director, Ms. Nieves serves as the key advisor to Mayor Walsh on health issues and builds on innovative partnerships across city departments by leveraging strategic opportunities for housing, economic development, transportation, education and environmental policies to positively impact the health of all Boston residents. Among other public health priorities, she is committed to advancing health equity and racial justice for all Bostonians and strengthening strategic collaborations across diverse stakeholders. Ms. Nieves will work closely with BPHC's Senior Leadership team to promote staff's participation in professional development and support staff to thrive as public health professionals.
Ms. Nieves began working at BPHC in 1994, most recently serving as Director of Organizational Development at the Office of Recovery Services (ORS) and assisting the Office in a strategic planning process for the reorganization of the Bureau of Recovery Services (BRS) and the Mayor's Office of Recovery Services (ORS). This process resulted in the development of a three-year plan that will further elevate the issues and efforts associated with substance use and recovery and will align services in a united vision for the future of recovery services.
Before that role, Ms. Nieves served as Deputy Director of the Commission for three years. As Deputy Director of BPHC, she worked closely with the Commission's Executive Director and Senior Leadership Team to establish priorities and manage the on-going work of BPHC and use a health equity approach on a larger scale to help guide and fulfill the mission of the health commission. Ms. Nieves worked closely with the Accreditation and Quality Improvement team and led efforts to develop and implement a plan to prepare BPHC for Public Health Accreditation Board site visit. This planning process resulted in a successful accreditation process for BPHC.
Prior to becoming Deputy Director, Ms. Nieves was the Director of the Recovery Services Bureau for BPHC for approximately fourteen years. She also worked as the Director of the Women and Families Substance Use Treatment Services Division. Under her leadership, the Bureau grew exponentially and became a national exemplar in the development and implementation of evidence-based services for substance use prevention and treatment. She received and successfully implemented more than fourteen multi-year federally funded grant projects and seven multi-year state funded grant projects, bringing more than 38 million dollars to Boston to develop, implement and evaluate innovative programs in the areas of substance use prevention and treatment. Her accomplishments in the development and implementation of community-based, gender-specific and culturally tailored substance use treatment programs and interventions has received national and international attention and numerous awards, leading other municipalities within and outside the U.S. to seek her expert consultation. With her unique collaborative approach with many community agencies and academic colleagues at Boston University and Northeastern University, Ms. Nieves expanded the BPHC's footprint in substance use treatment by expanding access to care, overdose prevention and Naloxone distribution services, outpatient, intensive outpatient, and residential substance use treatment programs for women, as well as an outpatient treatment program for men. These programs also extended the populations served including pregnant and postpartum women, individuals returning from incarceration, those with co-occurring disorders and trauma, and those at risk for HIV and other infectious diseases. Beyond, its benefit to Boston residents, her collaborative work resulted in numerous scientific publications on substance use and over eight treatment manuals used throughout the U.S. Ms. Nieves also co-developed, implemented and tested the Boston Consortium Model (BCM) of Integrated Treatment for substance use, trauma and mental health, which proved to be more efficacious than substance use treatment alone. It gained prominence and was adopted by numerous agencies nationally when SAMHSA cited it as an evidence-based program.
Ms. Nieves' earlier work focused on the treatment of tuberculosis. She oversaw thirteen TB clinics in Puerto Rico and was Director of TB Control for the City of Boston. She also served as an OR nurse at Boston City Hospital and University Hospital between 1983-89.
A sought-after speaker and expert, she has served as a consultant to SAMHSA, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and the National Latino Behavioral Health Association.
She received her RN and MPH from the University of Puerto Rico, Medical Science Campus and her MSW from Simmons College in Boston, MA.