Boston Medical Center has been leading the charge in rapidly standing up hundreds of community interventions across Massachusetts to combat the opioid epidemic and save lives. As an equity-led academic medical center, BMC has engaged and worked alongside key community organizations, the Department of Public Health, local leaders, and, most critically, a community advisory board that includes people with lived experience of opioid use disorder (OUD) to deliver and improve the effectiveness of care interventions.

Study Overview

The work has been part of HEALing Communities, a National Institute of Health (NIH) study under the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) designed to accelerate our understanding of effective interventions and create state and national models to curb the opioid crisis. The three-year study, from 2020 through 2023, was headquartered in four sites, representing four states: Columbia University (New York), the University of Kentucky (Kentucky), Ohio State University (Ohio), and here at BMC for Massachusetts.

The study has created a roadmap for how to evolve evidence-based measures based on community insight and implement those measures rapidly. 

The lasting impact of this study will come from the new partnerships that were forged in communities—from public health to government to first responders to people with lived experience—working together to respond to a devastating, ongoing epidemic that has touched every corner of the state.

- Jeffrey Samet, MD, BMC primary care physician and principal investigator for Massachusetts

Our Community Initiatives

Learn more about the evidence-based programs initiated during the HEALing Communities study that will continue to operate and help people living with opioid use disorder in Massachusetts.

Innovative Naloxone Distribution Programs 

Naloxone, also known by a brand name Narcan, is a life-saving medicine that quickly reverses an opioid overdose. BMC's innovative strategies for offering naloxone helped ensure that the most vulnerable people had it available if, and when, they needed it.

With the help of our community partners, we added naloxone boxes, or naloxone cabinets, in key community locations and made the medication available to sober homes and other community sites. We also engaged people who use opioids to teach them how to use naloxone and gave them a supply to pass out within their networks. First responders would leave behind boxes of the medication after responding to overdose emergencies for the future. All of the naloxone distribution programs helped build networks of people who could continue the efforts beyond the study period.

Expansion of Addiction Consult Services 

BMC led the launch of five new addiction consult services in Massachusetts hospitals, where trained nurse practitioners and recovery coaches help support patients and treat underlying substance use disorders. Key to that effort was the work of recovery coaches to help change the culture of opioid use disorder and effective medication treatment within these hospitals, according to study leaders. The addiction consult services increased the number of patients who started medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD) and increased referrals to an FDA-approved first-line MOUD, buprenorphine. 

Addressing Treatment Deserts 

Understanding how hard it can be to find and access care, especially for people living with SUD, we helped bring the care to people. As part of the study, BMC helped open two new opioid treatment programs in "treatment deserts," areas where this specific care for opioid use disorder wasn't easily available, often historically disenfranchised Black and Brown neighborhoods. The programs dramatically decreased travel time to access methadone, an FDA-approved medication for opioid use disorder, removing a major obstacle for people in the area to access care.  

We also co-funded new mobile units or the expansion of existing units. The "clinics on wheels" and offer medications, harm reduction services, and links to recovery coaching and counseling. They strategically visit libraries, local drop-in centers, correctional facilities, and other community locations for outreach to meet people where they are.​

New Bridge Clinics

BMC partnered with local communities to open five new bridge clinics, urgent, walk-in clinics to help people living with substance use disorder care access help quickly and effectively, including MOUD. Those bridge clinics then gave patients a warm handoff to a community-based provider to continue their care. This work sparked true culture change, strengthening bonds with community organizations and increasing access to buprenorphine, also known by a brand name Sublocade, an evidence-based one-month dose injection of buprenorphine to help people treat OUD.