Tags: research and discovery , industry interactions , community partnerships

Under the mantra “Zero Stigma. Zero Deaths,” respected leaders from throughout Massachusetts gathered today to launch a statewide private-sector initiative that will battle the ravaging effects of opioid addiction.

Called RIZE Massachusetts, this independent, non-profit organization will work to raise $50 million over the next three years to support innovations that help people with substance abuse disorders adhere to treatment and maintain recovery. The fundraising effort is already well on its way, with nearly $13 million in commitments made.

“For too long, medicine has failed to treat addiction as the chronic disease that it is,” said David Torchiana, MD, President & Chief Executive Officer, Partners HealthCare. “This effort holds promise because it is focused on the ongoing process of recovery. It is the only approach that will defeat this epidemic.”

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker echoed that sentiment, saying new partnerships and other innovative efforts that battle substance abuse have been a focus of his administration since day one. “Since taking office, we have made our response a top public health priority, enacting landmark legislation and increasing investments in education, treatment, recovery and prevention. We welcome RIZE Massachusetts and the private sector’s commitment to joining the intense focus our administration and others have placed on fighting this devastating epidemic,” he said.

Opioid overdoses kill six people in Massachusetts every day – five times more than car crashes.

RIZE builds off of opioid treatment efforts underway at Partners hospitals and other health providers such as the Substance Use Disorder Strategic Initiative, launched in 2014 by Massachusetts General Hospital. To date, the Initiative has been a major reason why the standard treatment plan for addiction moved from an ineffective model of episodic treatment to an evidence-based, chronic disease management system of care.
 
Other standout examples include the work of Joji Suzuki, MD, Director of the Division of Addiction Psychiatry at BWH, who is testing a novel approach to substance use disorder treatment that combines buprenorphine treatment with group therapy. And Sarah Wakeman, MD, Medical Director for Substance Use Disorders at MGH, is using the power of peer advocacy to ease the path to recovery through certified recovery coaches, who are themselves in addiction recovery.

For those who survive an overdose, medication cuts their risk of death by half, but only 5 percent of overdose survivors are started on medicine.

“As healthcare workers, we are on the front lines of the opioid addiction epidemic, and we see firsthand the trauma and pain that this disease inflicts,” said Tyrék D. Lee Sr., Executive Vice President, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. “For many of us, this crisis hits close to home, not only at our workplaces, but also within our own families. That’s why we are proud to participate in RIZE and reaffirm our commitment to ending the epidemic of opioid and substance abuse addiction. Our financial contribution is just a start – we will use the strength of our collective voice and collaborate with our partners in advocating to break down the stigma of addiction through training and education and provide better access to treatment programs in our communities.”

To process new ideas, RIZE will issue Requests for Proposals (RFP) and establish a review committee populated by content experts and representatives of public and private insurers. Future grant decisions will be made by the RIZE board, which will base its selection process on recommendations from the review committee and executive director.

Other state and business leaders in attendance at the RIZE launch included Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey; Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh; Andrew Dreyfus, President & Chief Executive Officer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts; and Dr. David Barash, Chief Medical Officer, GE Foundation, and RIZE board member.