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City of Boston awarded $50,000 for substance use disorder assessment

November 28, 2016

Public Health Commission

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Public Health Commission

It's the first step towards developing Boston's first-ever citywide strategy for prevention of Substance Use Disorders.

BOSTON - Mayor Martin J. Walsh, in partnership with the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation (BCBSMAF), today announced the City of Boston has been selected to receive a $50,000 Special Initiatives Grant to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment, the first step towards developing Boston's first-ever citywide strategy for prevention of Substance Use Disorders (SUDs).

The resulting assessment will be used to map current prevention efforts, increase access to underserved high-risk youth, and catalyze future investments in prevention. The Mayor's Office of Recovery Services (ORS) will use the findings of this assessment to develop a strategic plan to set prevention priorities and build comprehensive responses across the city.

"Too many Bostonians know firsthand the devastation that substance abuse causes in our City's families and neighborhoods," said Mayor Walsh. "This assessment will help provide a holistic overview that identifies gaps in coordination among the services and programs available for those struggling with addiction so that together we can build an unbreakable chain of recovery services. I thank the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation for their continued support in our recovery efforts, and look forward to using the findings of this assessment to strengthen Boston's recovery service system."

"Through this partnership, we have a unique opportunity to collaborate with the City of Boston to include prevention education as part of the strategy to fight the opioid epidemic that has claimed so many lives in the city of Boston," said Audrey Shelto, President of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation.

A six month process will begin in December to conduct a community needs assessment of drug and alcohol prevention programming, as well as an identification of best practice models and recommendations for the City of Boston. The assessment and work plan will consist of:

  • Continued engagement with community stakeholders, with a particular focus on promoting diversity and increasing health equity across all Boston neighborhoods;
  • An environmental scan, including a service and gap analysis;
  • Review of promising practices resulting in a data informed, concrete, and actionable plan for using resources effectively;

A Youth Prevention Advisory Group - comprised of local youth substance use experts and key community stakeholders - will also be assembled to help guide this process. This effort will consist of collaborative efforts with community health centers, after-school programs, public/private schools, and faith-based partners to create a comprehensive city/county-wide prevention strategy. This process will allow ORS to be prepared to provide policy options or other recommendations that will address the current gaps in capacity and prevention needs. It will also better align the City's prevention services with best practices and lead to an innovative model for the City of Boston.

"Identifying both strengths and gaps in current prevention efforts is key to continuing to grow and strengthen the work being done through a number of partnerships with public health, our health care partners, and the City," said BPHC Executive Director Monica Valdes Lupi, JD, MPH. "We're grateful for MGH's long term commitment to addressing the national opioid epidemic, a public health issue that is deeply impacting Boston residents."

"Under this partnership with BCBSMAF, the Mayor's Office of Recovery Services has a unique opportunity to comprehensively expand the scope of its prevention efforts to fully support our young people and their families," said Jen Tracey, Director of the Office of Recovery Services.

In 2015, BCBSMAF partnered with the City of Boston to create Addiction and Recovery Services in the City of Boston, a Blueprint for Building a Better System of Care, a report on the status of substance abuse and addiction in the City of Boston. This report led to the creation of ORS and helped guide the office through its first year. ORS' initial efforts, rooted in BCBSMAF's findings, have led to tangible cross-agency coordination within the City, and successful advocacy for policy changes to enhance recovery services across Boston.

In September, Mayor Walsh launched 311 for Recovery Services, the City of Boston's hotline support system designed to help people struggling with substance use and addiction to access recovery resources.