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CMRPHA Proposes Regional Opioid Partnership

For Immediate Release: 4/5/2024 9:36 am

The Central Massachusetts Regional Public Health Alliance (CMRPHA) is currently exploring a Regional Opioid Partnership as a means of addressing opioid use disorders (OUDs). The Worcester Division of Public Health (WDPH) is currently engaging with the Town of Grafton to develop a program that could serve as a model across the region.

In 2023, the Grafton Board of Health established the Grafton Opioid Subcommittee to strategically guide the town’s utilization of National Opioid Settlement funds. Its members include Dr. William Muller and Daniel Finn from the Board of Health, Police Chief Normand A. Crepeau Jr., and Grafton Public Schools Superintendent James Cummings. WDPH Deputy Director Ian Wong and former Shared Services Coordinator Karina Scott assisted in creating the group.

“The Grafton Opioid Subcommittee is taking a holistic, community-driven approach to address the challenges of OUDs, beyond focusing solely on treatments. It is working to address gaps and concerns that specifically pertain to Grafton residents—the town is taking steps to inform its own programming, and the Alliance can help provide tools,” said Scott.

The Subcommittee’s overarching goal is to support individuals and families affected by opioid disease and promote preventative measures to mitigate future harm. It works in close collaboration with the CMRPHA Shared Services Coordinator to facilitate meetings and resource sharing, and to make recommendations on how to leverage funds to best meet the community’s needs.

Since its creation, the Subcommittee has facilitated a community Narcan training and is currently running a community survey to gather input to inform how resources could be used to promote public health efforts, help those who are impacted by opioid illness and their families, and encourage preventive actions to lessen future damage.

Now, Wong and WDPH are looking at how Grafton’s model could be expanded to other towns in the CMRPHA, with the basic idea that they would pool their Opioid Settlement funds to address community-specific opioid challenges and develop comprehensive strategies for OUD treatment, recovery, and prevention. The proposed Opioid Prevention Preliminary Plan (OPPP) lays out six core objectives:

  • Develop Evidence-Based Prevention Programs
  • Expand Access to Treatment and Recovery Services
  • Enhance Public Education and Awareness
  • Support Law Enforcement and First Responders’ Efforts
  • Strengthen Collaboration

Under the proposed program, the CMRPHA would establish an Alliance-wide Regional Opioid Partnership to guide shared initiatives and oversee the distribution of settlement funds through opioid subcommittees in each town. As lead agency of the CMRPHA, WDPH would coordinate programming that could be tailored and adapted to each town based on their unique needs and efforts to date. Rather than introduce brand new initiatives, the CMRPHA would partner with entities throughout the region that are already addressing OUD and build off their work.

“Each CMRPHA municipality has already been doing great work to address the opioid crisis. This proposed partnership would expand their capacity by providing a governance mechanism for the towns to pool and share their resources. Proven programming can be replicated across each town so they don’t need to start from scratch, and it also gives our residents additional options. For example, if you miss a Narcan training in West Boylston, you can attend a similar training in Grafton,” said Wong.

Key to the regional plan will be hiring an Opioid Prevention Specialist, who would collaborate with stakeholders to develop and deliver training programs, educational materials, and communications strategies aimed at promoting prevention of OUDs, while tailoring outreach efforts to effectively reach and engage specific populations.

As the proposed OPPP rolls out, it will be guided by a cross-sector task force, including the CMRPHA and local Town Managers, Councils on Aging, Police, Fire, Youth and Family Services, Public Schools, Library, and Veterans Services. The municipal opioid subcommittees will review data and available resources, establish processes to address proposals, and ensure they align with community needs and six funding guidelines:

  1. Treatment programs
  2. Support for individuals in treatment/recovery
  3. Connections to care, prevention of overdose deaths
  4. Diversion/deflection programs for criminal justice-involved persons
  5. Support for pregnant women with OUD
  6. Prevention education initiatives

To date, the OPPP has been submitted to each town manager and board of health, and it is in the process of being finalized.

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