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Mayor Walsh releases report on substance abuse and addiction in the City of Boston

May 20, 2015

Mayor's Office

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Mayor's Office

Mayor Martin J. Walsh today joined the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation (BCBSMF) to release Addiction and Recovery Services in the City of Bostona Blueprint for Building a Better System of Care, a report on the current status of substance abuse and addiction in the City of Boston. The findings of the report will serve as a road map for the Mayor’s Office of Recovery Services (ORS), the first-ever municipal-based office to focus on this issue. The Mayor also announced that Jennifer Tracey, a highly respected and experienced recovery expert, will head ORS.   

“Too many Bostonians are all too familiar with the destruction that substance abuse addiction causes in our City’s families and neighborhoods,” said Mayor Walsh. “We see addiction’s devastation in our homes, at our workplaces, and on our streets. Where there are accessible recovery supports that readily assist people and families suffering from addiction, devastation can quickly transform into a wellspring of resilience and strength. This is why addressing Boston’s addiction problem is one of my top priorities as Mayor of Boston. Now that BCBSMAF has finalized this report, it will serve as a vital roadmap for the newly created Office of Recovery Services, which will soon open under the Boston Public Health Commission.”  

“We were pleased to partner with Mayor Walsh and his Administration  on an assessment that included concrete, actionable recommendations to strengthen Boston’s substance use disorder and recovery service system," said BCBSMF President Audrey Shelto. "Under his leadership, the City has an incredible opportunity to strengthen the partnerships and programs that provide services to individuals and families impacted by addiction and reduce stigma by encouraging those who need treatment to seek it. The City of Boston can become a national leader in combating drug use and related community challenges and serve as a model to other municipalities in the region and around the country."   

Last year, Mayor Walsh announced a collaboration between the City of Boston and the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation to produce a study on the current capacity of addiction and recovery services in the City of Boston. The findings of the report focus on how to better align the city’s addiction and recovery services with demonstrated best practices.   Among the report's findings, some include:   

  • Boston’s rate of substance abuse prevalence (11.3 percent), based on respondents’ indication of dependence or abuse of illicit drugs or alcohol in the past year, is roughly comparable to that of other regions within the state.
  • The substance use disorder treatment system is a statewide system and treatment seekers are not prioritized for placement based on their city or town of residence. At any given time, as many of half of the residential treatment beds based in Boston may be filled by individuals living outside of the City. 
  • Boston’s capacity gap reflects needs beyond Boston residents. Based on the analysis by the state’s Health Planning Council, the City has a significantly higher density of treatment and recovery beds (detox, residential, transitional support services and Clinical Stabilization Service) than any other area of the state. 
  • Boston has 152 beds per 100,000 residents, while the next largest, central Massachusetts and Cape Cod, have approximately 42 beds per 100,000 residents.

  Among the report's recommendations, some include:   

  • Augmenting existing capacity (beds) for detox and residential treatment;
  • Creating a central source of real-time information on available treatment beds and outpatient services;
  • A more cohesive and integrated continuum of care to reduce relapse and increase rates of retention during transition points;
  • Encouraging of formal referral arrangements between organizations;
  • Supporting integration of levels of care within single organizations;
  • Public and private payment reform to support such delivery system reform;
  • Expanding care coordination and system navigation services;
  • Better data collection and reporting regarding need, demand and capacity;
  • More detailed data collection including needs of specific populations and cultural competence; and
  • Advocacy for implementation of evidence based practices. 

The Office of Recovery Services will be under the oversight of the Boston Public Health Commission, and is part of Mayor Walsh’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget, which identified $300,000 in new funding to help support its creation. The office will work to improve existing addiction and recovery services and create a continuum of high quality services for those battling addiction, help those fighting addiction navigate the city’s available resources, and advocate for treatment options. Today's addiction and recovery study will be fundamental to the development, mission and function of the office.  

As the new Director of the Office of Recovery Services, Jennifer Tracey has nearly 20 years of experience in the field of Health and Human Services ranging from program development, implementation and evaluation; grant and contract negotiation; strategic community mobilization, education and direct service work with adolescents and families. Tracey previously served as the Director of the Office of Youth and Young Adults at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Bureau of Substance Abuse Services for the past five years. At DPH, she oversaw the development of policies and programming for the state’s youth and young adult treatment service system and recovery high schools. Prior to her most recent position, Tracey worked for seven years as DPH's Boston Regional Manager, developing and administering comprehensive alcohol and drug treatment programs throughout the City of Boston and statewide. Tracey holds a master's degree in Social Work from Salem State College and a bachelor's degree from Providence College. She is a resident of Dorchester.   

"It is an honor to serve the City of Boston and join a team that prioritizes innovative addiction recovery efforts," said Tracey. "I am grateful to bring my experience and passion to the Office of Recovery Services to carry out the recommendations of the strategic plan and to support Mayor Walsh's comprehensive vision comprised of prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery for each individual and family in the City of Boston."  

Wednesday's report was released at the Dimock Center in Roxbury, which is nationally recognized as a model for the delivery of comprehensive health and human services in an urban community.  

“I am incredibly honored that The Dimock Center was chosen as the site to release this important addiction and recovery report,” said Dr. Myechia Minter-Jordan, President & CEO of The Dimock Center and member of the report’s Advisory Council. “As a leader in substance abuse and recovery services, The Dimock Center is at the forefront of the fight against addiction as we work to increase access to these services in the City of Boston and beyond.”  

About the City of Boston: 
Since entering office, Mayor Martin J. Walsh has lead the City of Boston with a commitment to opportunity, community, equality for every resident in every neighborhood. From housing, to education, to diversity, to arts and culture, and more, Mayor Walsh works to ensure fairness and justice permeates all Boston communities, municipal departments and local businesses. He has followed through on this commitment by establishing several new initiatives devoted to achieving and protecting equality for all.  

About the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation: 
The mission of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation is to expand access to health care for vulnerable and low-income individuals and families in the Commonwealth. The Foundation was founded in 2001 with an initial endowment from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. It operates separately from the company and is governed by its own Board of Directors.