The City of Boston was selected to receive a $50,000 Special Initiatives Grant to take steps toward developing a city-wide strategy for prevention of substance use disorders, Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s office said in a press release on Nov. 28.
The grant funding will be used to develop a comprehensive needs assessment to help develop the city-wide strategy, Walsh’s office said. The strategy will help “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 then use the findings to develop a plan “to set prevention priorities and build comprehensive responses across the city,” Walsh’s office said.
“Too many Bostonians know firsthand the devastation that substance abuse causes in our city’s families and neighborhoods,” Mayor Walsh said. “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.”
Audrey Shelto, president of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, said in a statement that he hopes the collaboration will create an opportunity to provide prevention education “to fight the opioid epidemic that has claimed so many lives in the city of Boston.”
The process will begin in December and will last for six months, Walsh’s office said. During that period, a community needs assessment of drug and alcohol prevention programming will be conducted. The process will also identify best practice models and provide recommendations for the city of Boston.
According to the city, 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; and
- review of promising practices resulting in a data-informed, concrete and actionable plan for using resources effectively.
The plan will also include the creation of a youth prevention advisory group, Walsh’s office said. The group will comprise local youth substance-use experts and key community stakeholders to help guide the process.
The plan will also include efforts from community health centers, after-school programs, public/private schools and faith-based partners to aid with the prevention strategy, Walsh’s office said. This will allow ORS to be prepared to provide 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,” BPHC Executive Director Monica Valdes Lupi said in a statement. “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.”
Jen Tracey, director of the ORS, said in a statement that the partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation represented a “unique opportunity” for the ORS “to comprehensively expand the scope of its prevention efforts to fully support our young people and their families.”