Special to the Sun
RIZE Massachusetts, an independent nonprofit foundation working to end the opioid epidemic in Massachusetts, received a $2 million appropriation to support its efforts to combat the overdose crisis in the state’s fiscal 2023 budget signed into law today by Gov. Charlie Baker.
The funds will support RIZE’s strategic initiatives and grantmaking endeavors, including efforts to increase the understanding and utilization of harm reduction practices designed to save lives. These programs seek to address the increase of opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts, due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic. In June, the state Department of Public Health reported overdose deaths in Massachusetts reached an all-time high in 2021, claiming 2,234 lives.
“The opioid epidemic has had a devastating impact on communities in Massachusetts, and across the country. The Legislature understands that in order to combat this epidemic, we must ensure that organizations like RIZE Massachusetts continue to have the funding and resources necessary to address the increase in opioid-related overdose deaths,” said House Speaker Ronald J. Mariano (D-Quincy). “I want to thank the folks at RIZE Massachusetts for the ever-important work that they continue to do. The Legislature is proud to fund these lifesaving efforts.”
Among RIZE’s ongoing projects include a research program on pharmacists’ role in substance use disorder treatment; a hands-on harm reduction focused internship for graduate-level social work students; and grants for organizations trying to improve access and equity in addiction treatment. These initiatives were developed using learnings and insights from the foundation’s first five years and are guided by those with lived experience and who are unafraid of new ideas. RIZE recently marked its fifth anniversary with an Impact Report that highlights the progress made by the organization since its founding, including stories of people living with substance use disorder, outcomes from grant investments, and the impact of partners and supporters.
“Our five-year fight to end the overdose epidemic in Massachusetts has brought about significant change as we have worked to reduce overdose deaths by supporting evidence-based practices proven to save lives,” said Julie Burns, President and CEO of RIZE. “We are grateful to the Massachusetts Legislature and the Baker-Polito Administration as this funding will allow us to concentrate on areas in need of investment now: building an addiction treatment workforce that can meet the ever-changing epidemic, increasing access to care for the most marginalized, and expanding harm reduction services to keep people alive until they’re ready for treatment.”
“The pandemic has exacerbated how difficult the barriers for those seeking treatment for substance use disorder can be,” said State Rep. Aaron Michlewitz (D-Boston), Chair of the House Committee on Ways & Means. “These critical funds secured through the budget process will be essential to helping remove these barriers for those in need of better treatment options. I want to applaud RIZE for their tireless work in this area and for their commitment to equity as we work toward recovery and better treatment outcomes for everyone.”
The budget amendment was introduced by State Rep. Jon Santiago (D-Boston) and championed by several members of the Legislature who recognize the severity of the opioid epidemic in Massachusetts and the need for a public-private partnership to find effective solutions.
“This $2 million investment for RIZE will go a long way in addressing an opioid epidemic that has worsened during a global pandemic,” said Rep. Santiago. “As overdoses hit record numbers and impact every corner of the Commonwealth, this funding will help save lives. Thank you to Speaker Mariano and Chair Michlewitz for their leadership and unwavering commitment to working toward zero stigma and zero deaths.”
RIZE Massachusetts is based at 101 Huntington Ave. They are a statewide foundation supporting organizations from Western Mass. to the Cape and everything in between. They support many Boston-based providers on the front lines of the overdose epidemic, including those addressing the humanitarian crisis at Mass. and Cass