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HHS awards $6.8 million to 20 Massachusetts health centers to help treat prescription opioid abuse

3-11-16 Feature Story:

Washington, DC -- On March 11, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced $20 million in Affordable Care Act funding to 20 Massachusetts health centers to improve and expand the delivery of substance abuse services in health centers, with a specific focus on the treatment of opioid use disorders in underserved populations. The Massachusetts' awards were part of $94 million in grants distributed to 271 health centers across 45 states.

"The opioid epidemic is one of the most pressing public health issues in the United States today," said Secretary Burwell. "Expanding access to medication-assisted treatment and integrating these services in health centers bolsters nationwide efforts to curb opioid misuse and abuse, supports approximately 124,000 new patients accessing substance use treatment for recovery and helps save lives."

The abuse of and addiction to opioids, such as heroin and prescription pain medication, is a serious and increasing public health problem. Approximately 4.5 million people in the United States were non-medical prescription pain reliever users in 2013, and an estimated 289,000 were current heroin users. HHS also estimates the number of unintentional overdose deaths from prescription pain medications has nearly quadrupled from 1999 to 2013, and deaths related to heroin increased 39 percent between 2012 and 2013.

Administered by the HHS Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), these awards to health centers across the country will increase the number of patients screened for substance use disorders and connected to treatment, increase the number of patients with access to MAT for opioid use and other substance use disorder treatment, and provide training and educational resources to help health professionals make informed prescribing decisions. This $94 million investment is expected to help awardees hire approximately 800 providers to treat nearly 124,000 new patients.

"Health centers treat some of the most at-risk patients in the country," said HRSA Acting Administrator Jim Macrae. "These awards position health centers to be at the forefront of the fight against opioid abuse in underserved communities."

Research demonstrates that a whole-patient approach to treatment through a combination of medication and counseling and behavioral therapies is most successful in treating opioid use disorders. In 2014, over 1.3 million people received behavioral health services at health centers, This represents a 75 percent increase since 2008 and was made possible with support from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Recovery Act. Today’s funding builds upon and leverages these previous investments by providing support to health centers to improve and expand the delivery of MAT substance abuse services in an integrated primary care/behavioral health model with a specific focus on treatment of opioid use disorders in underserved populations.

"The health center approach is succeeding because it is holistic," said James W. Hunt, Jr., President and CEO of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers. "There is no silver bullet solution, but in understanding the population trends and risks, as well as developing early interventions, health centers in Massachusetts and across the country are setting an example for all healthcare providers."

Massachusetts Awardees:

  1. Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program ($325,000)
  2. Brockton Neighborhood Health Center ($325,000)
  3. Caring Health Center, Springfield ($406,250)
  4. Codman Square Health Center, Dorchester ($352,083)
  5. Community Health Center of Cape Cod, Falmouth ($364,685)
  6. Community Health Connections, Fitchburg ($352,083)
  7. Dimock Community Health Center, Roxbury ($325,000)
  8. DotHouse Health, Dorchester ($352,083)
  9. Duffy Health Center, Hyannis ($325,000)
  10. East Boston Neighborhood Health Center ($325,000)
  11. Family Health Center of Worcester ($352,083)
  12. HealthFirst Family Care Center, Fall River ($379,167)
  13. Holyoke Health Center ($320,825)
  14. Lowell Community Health Center ($352,083)
  15. Lynn Community Health Center ($325,000)
  16. Mattapan Community Health Center ($217,386)
  17. North End Waterfront Health ($406,249)
  18. North Shore Community Health ($352,083)
  19. South End Community Health Center ($325,000)
  20. Whittier Street Health Center, Roxbury ($325,000)


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