A new nonprofit in Massachusetts plans to raise $50 million over the next three years to support innovative efforts to fight opioid addiction and substance abuse and has already attracted $13 million in funding commitments.
RIZE Massachusetts held its first meeting in Boston on Tuesday morning and has begun its search for an executive director.
Its board includes executives from the GE Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Cape Cod Healthcare, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, The Dimock Center, Learn to Cope, Partners HealthCare and Boston Medical Center.
"For too long, medicine has failed to treat addiction as the chronic disease that it is," RIZE board member David Torchiana, president and CEO of Partners, said in a statement describing the approach behind the new effort. "This effort holds promise because it is focused on the ongoing process of recovery. It is the only approach that will defeat this epidemic."
RIZE plans to issue a request for proposals to vet ideas centered around evidence-based treatment. Grants will be made based on recommendations from a review committee and the executive director. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts has agreed to test the cost effectiveness of new models of care.
"The opioid epidemic has had a tragic impact on our Commonwealth's families and communities, and we are always encouraged to have new partners joining efforts to curb this crisis," Gov. Charlie Baker said in a statement released by RIZE. "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."
Dr. David Barash, chief medical officer at the GE Foundation and a RIZE board member, said, "Since moving to Boston, we have committed $15 million to fighting the opioid epidemic. We're grateful today to see even more organizations join us and fully hope and expect that even more will be inspired to act and contribute to RIZE Massachusetts. We can do great things together — by seeding ideas locally that can be scaled nationally and by inspiring others to act, we will create results that far exceed what any of us individually invest."
The number of people dying from opioid overdoses in Massachusetts continues to climb, according to the latest data.
A total of 1,465 people died of unintentional opioid overdoses in 2016, with another 469 to 562 suspected opioid-related deaths, according to the Department of Public Health's quarterly overdose report in February.
There were 1,579 opioid overdose deaths in 2015 and 1,321 in 2014, according to updated DPH figures.
Boston Medical Center last week announced that the former White House director of national drug control policy will return to Boston to lead a new addiction medicine center. Michael Botticelli will serve as the first executive director of the Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine, which the hospital established after a receiving a $25 million donation from Boston residents Eilene and John Grayken. Botticelli spent nine years as director of the state Department of Public Health's Bureau of Substance Abuse Services until President Obama tapped him for the post in the drug control policy office.
Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh were scheduled to deliver remarks at the RIZE Massachusetts Leadership Breakfast Tuesday at the Taj Boston Hotel.