New Day Spaces And Expanded Substance Use Services Announced
Mayor Wu and the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) today announced a number of investments and initiatives expanding access to substance use services and recovery supports throughout the City of Boston. The new investments, supported by $6.9 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, will increase street outreach, expand work opportunities to individuals experiencing substance use, and make recovery and harm reduction services available to more residents through Boston’s neighborhoods.
This expanded access includes the establishment of two new low-threshold, daytime spaces offering harm reduction services and medical and treatment referrals, while maintaining reduced barriers to entry. The facilities will provide access to food, water, and bathrooms. On-site, they will offer support groups and wellness activities. The new spaces will be managed by Whittier Street Community Health Center at their Tremont Street location in Roxbury and Victory Programs Inc., which will add harm reduction services to the Boston Living Center located in Back Bay.
“These steps move us closer to ensuring that every person impacted by substance use is connected to city services and has a path to a safe, stable recovery," said Mayor Michelle Wu. "These two new low-threshold daytime spaces will expand our comprehensive approach to supporting unsheltered individuals with substance use disorder and fill critical gaps in the continuum of care. I’m grateful to Whittier Street Community Health Center and Victory Programs for partnering with us to lower barriers and connect more residents with the care they need, where they are."
In May, Mayor Wu announced the city would open two new daytime centers to bring more services to more communities. These new sites will support the City’s continued public health driven response to supporting unsheltered individuals experiencing substance use disorder.
“Whittier Street Community Health Center and Victory Programs have exceptional track records providing equity-focused care and a broad continuum of health care services, and their partnership is crucial to achieving our goal of providing a person-centered and compassionate response to substance use disorder,” said Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission and Commissioner of Public Health. “Recovery cannot happen without comprehensive support systems and a strong community. The low-threshold day spaces and other investments announced today will make services accessible to more communities, allow us to be creative in our approaches and tailor our responses to truly meet the needs of the people of Boston.”
“We’re thrilled to be partnering with the city of Boston and the Boston Public Health Commission to launch a day center at Whittier that will support members of our community. This Center is an extension of our mission, and we are uniquely positioned within the city to respond to the unyielding epidemic of untreated addiction and mental health among transient populations, as well as reach individuals needing any medical and social services to help improve their overall well-being, said Frederica M. Williams, President & CEO of Whittier Street Health Center. “This is an incredibly important initiative for the city of Boston to undertake, and we are proud to partner with them on this.”
“Thanks to BPHC and the City of Boston, we’re able to expand our low-threshold program offerings. Victory Programs has long been committed to helping the most vulnerable citizens of our city,” said Sarah Porter, Executive Director of Victory Programs. “By offering judgment-free services in a safe and welcoming setting, we continue the Boston Living Center's proud tradition of making community for those who need it most."
Another initiative that expands services to neighborhoods across the city is the creation of Neighborhood Engagement Teams, which will engage individuals experiencing substance use and housing issues and refer them to services. The teams will also distribute education to businesses and collaborate to identify local needs and solutions. These teams will be led by Torchlight Recovery Group in Nubian Square and East Boston Community Health Center. Through the request for proposals, the Boston Public Health Commission sought organizations to support community engagement teams for up to three neighborhoods identified as high need. Eligible neighborhoods include Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, and East Boston as determined by three indicators, the CDC’s social vulnerability index, the number of Boston EMS responses to opioid overdoses, and the number of 311 requests related to unsheltered individuals.
"Torchlight has deep roots in the Nubian community and our engagement staff bring perspective and nuance to the work they do supporting businesses and connecting with individuals in need of services,” said Minister Randy Muhammad, Director of Torchlight Recovery Group. “We are grateful to receive funding and work towards the goal of ensuring that everyone in Nubian Square can access resources and achieve wellness."
Additionally, funding will be provided to the following initiatives and organizations:
Low-threshold work programs, giving individuals experiencing substance use disorder the means of earning income and fostering a sense of self-efficacy.
- Addiction Response Resources, to stipend peers in return for collecting improperly discarded syringes off the ground and pre-employment opportunities and wellness referrals.
- Newmarket Business Association, to offer a holistic program including pay per day work program with opportunity for employment, case management, and wellness referrals.
Recovery Community Organizations
- The Phoenix, to run wellness and community programming free of charge to anyone with 48 hours of abstinence from substances.
- Gavin Foundation to fund the opening of a new residential program for women.
- NamaStay Sober to provide wellness and meditation programming to people in recovery, as well as gym memberships.
- Resources for Recovery, to establish a referral site in the Hyde Park area, offering support groups and education to care givers of people experiencing SUD.
“The most urgent issues in this City are the opioid crisis and homelessness. I have seen firsthand how detrimental the COVID-19 pandemic has been to such individuals, and I knew that I needed to allocate the ARPA federal funding to help combat such issues,” said Councilor Erin Murphy. “As the Council Chair of Public Health, Homelessness, and Recovery, I strongly advocated to bring much-needed funding to public health nonprofits and recovery programs. These organizations build a pipeline to a community rooted in inclusivity and connection for those in recovery. They are a massive part of the solution but are limited by their funding.”
“We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has also deepened our behavioral health pandemic, and I’m very proud that the Boston City Council authorized these funds in July to support a wide variety of organizations helping to meet that crisis in every corner of our city,” said Councilor Kenzie Bok.
The American Rescue Plan Act provides emergency funding to states and municipalities for the purpose of building a strong public health foundation and assisting the economy in bouncing back from COVID-19.
The investments announced today come at a time of great need for the City of Boston and its residents. The COVID-19 pandemic caused the discontinuation of treatment services and a rise in behavioral health conditions that resulted in greater incidence of substance use disorders. From 2020 to 2021, fatal opioid-related overdoses increased by 8.8% in Massachusetts. Similarly, Boston EMS responded to 9% more narcotics related incidents in 2021 compared to 2020. State data shows that through the early part of 2021 Black non-Hispanic men made up the largest increase in opioid overdose death rates, emphasizing the need for an equitable approach.