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Grants from Beacon Health Options help organizations tackle the opioid crisis

To help fight the opioid epidemic in Massachusetts, Beacon Health Options, along with its partner the Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership (MBHP), distributed more than $250,000 in grants to four community-based behavioral health organizations. Covering a two-year period, the funding helped increase access to medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD), an evidence-based approach to effectively treating OUD.

Beacon’s grant initiative helped enhance and increase access to life-saving treatment. Grantees took on everything from the expansion of telehealth, to solving transportation problems, to using smartphone technology to help individuals get MOUD services. Read on for a closer look at outcomes from this grant initiative.

Grantees for the 2019 – 2021 grant period include:

Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program (BHCHP) works to ensure equitable and dignified access to high quality health care for individuals and families experiencing homelessness in the Boston community. Since these individuals often struggle with substance use disorder (SUD) as well as psychiatric illness, BHCHP saw an urgent need to expand its delivery of behavioral health and SUD services – a challenge made more daunting by the COVID-19 pandemic.

BHCHP utilized grant funds to expand its reach, increase access to MOUD, and bolster continued engagement in behavioral health services by leveraging mobile telehealth units deployed in the community. The results over the two-year grant funding period proved promising:

  • Despite logistics and supply chain challenges, 78% of patients receiving MOUD engaged in telehealth visits across service sites
  • The number of patients receiving MOUD increased from 915 patients in year one to 1,069 patients by the end of year two
  • Behavioral health visits increased with the use of telehealth services across the program, with a total of 9,814 visits completed during the grant period

Beacon’s support helped us scale telehealth services at a critical time, with the onset of the pandemic, which both created barriers to care and increased the need for accessible treatment, harm reduction and behavioral health services.  ~ Samantha Ciarocco, Director of Telemedicine and Operations Manager of OBAT Program

Beacon funding helped increase access for OUD treatment and behavioral health services for Bostonians experiencing homelessness – work that will continue to expand in scope and serve patients regardless of their health coverage. Additionally, BHCHP will strengthen its commitment to underserved populations, including communities of color, by expanding services to new areas, addressing cultural inequities and reducing barriers to care for complex needs.

While the grant was expected to be geared toward a specific part of our program, with a focus on mobile health and people with OUD, the impact has been much greater and has allowed us to continue to innovate and expand access to care across our program’s widespread sites and teams. ~ Samantha Ciarocco, Director of Telemedicine and Operations Manager of OBAT Program

Bournewood Health Systems: Using smartphone technology to help manage medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD)

Bournewood is a full-service, independent psychiatric facility that provides mental health and substance use treatment services and programs in a safe, respectful and nurturing environment. Serving adults and adolescents ages 12 – 18, the organization offers a comprehensive continuum of services that focus on recovery through a trauma-informed and person-centered approach.

Bournewood utilized Beacon funding to increase the speed of connection to MOUD induction, promote adherence to treatment and expand MOUD services to the broader community outside the hospital. Over the course of the program:

  • Bournewood provided MOUD induction and bridging services to patients both stepping down from inpatient and to those referred from the community, with 100% of these patients remaining adherent to treatment plans
  • Patients and staff were educated on the benefits and risks of MOUD, allowing staff to more effectively screen patients with OUD and more quickly offer MOUD induction, bridging and referral
  • The Hazelden COR-12 smartphone app was rolled out, which provided mobile access to content that based on current brain research, stages of change, motivational enhancement therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Patients were able to track sobriety and create relapse prevention plans using the app

We learned that many patients activated the smartphone app we built into the program and told us they found it useful in tracking sobriety and creating relapse prevention plans. This was a win all around. ~ Marcia Fowler, CEO Bournewood Health Systems

“Our participation in the Beacon grant funding allowed us to pilot smartphone technology, increase access to MOUD services for a vulnerable population and promote stronger treatment adherence,” said Marcia Fowler, CEO of Bournewood Health Systems. Going forward, Bournewood will continue to provide MOUD services using valuable lessons learned from the Beacon OUD grant initiative.

Lowell House: Leveraging Uber Health to increase access to MOUD

Lowell House provides high quality, accessible and affordable addiction services to nearly 2,000 people per year through inpatient and outpatient treatment and residential options designed to support recovery across a lifetime.

For the Beacon grant program, Lowell House identified that lack of reliable transportation was a major barrier for clients in accessing MOUD. The organization used grant funds to initiate a partnership with Uber Health to provide client transportation to MOUD appointments and detox. This simple yet life-changing intervention resulted in:

  • Over 1,000 completed transportation assessments
  • Nearly 500 trips taken by clients in need to detox and MOUD appointments
  • No clients struggling unnecessarily to access MOUD appointments – compared to Lowell House’s estimate that across the three targeted programs, transportation issues cause difficulties with access to MOUD services on average for over 10,000 sessions per year

By providing clients with accessible, free transportation through Uber Health, individuals were able to establish their MOUD intakes and ongoing MOUD appointments more quickly. This grant sustained these visits until the clients had the resources to cover their own transportation. Moving forward, the organization plans to continue its use of Uber Health to get life-saving treatment to individuals struggling with OUD.

North Suffolk Mental Health Association: Achieving better recovery outcomes through OARS

North Suffolk Mental Health Association (NSMHA) helps clients achieve independence by intervening as early as possible to provide treatment and rehabilitation services, promote prevention and education, and participate in training and research. NSMHA used the Beacon OUD grant to increase access to MOUD by piloting the innovative Opioid Addiction Recovery Support (OARS) software. OARS streamlines provider workflow, offers MOUD education to patients, and overall works to enhance OUD patients’ recovery outcomes and experiences.

Beacon OUD grant funding helped NSMHA:

  • Integrate OARS software with its telehealth operations, which increased connectedness with patients and allowed providers to track treatment attendance and participation, toxicology screening, and frequency of contact, as well as other measures such as patients’ sober supports and co-occurring disorder symptoms
  • Increase its MOUD prescribing capacity through the training and support provided by OARS
  • Use a data-driven approach to identify SUD community needs and care gaps and create ways to fill these gaps, such as the institution of a new office-based opioid treatment (OBOT) clinic premised on a harm reduction model of care

The program realized important benefits for both MOUD providers and patients. Lessons learned from the initiative helped NSMHA secure a five-year grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to fully fund a nurse care manager MOUD clinic, as well as to consider expanding OARS for populations that have moved beyond intensive treatment and need a simple and easy way to monitor their symptoms and communicate with providers. 

North Suffolk used OUD grant funds to expand the use of technology in treatment for individuals on MOUD. The implementation of the OARS tool allowed another method of communication between patients and providers, which proved critical with the onset of COVID-19 pandemic. ~ Audrey Clairmont, Director of Addiction Services NSMHA

Beacon Health Options is committed to helping individuals live their lives to their fullest potential and is proud to support local programs. Look for our blog post announcing our next round of grant funding for health equity grantees coming soon. For more information visit us online, or connect with us on social media.

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