GE Foundation today announced a first-of-its-kind partnership with Shatterproof, an organization dedicated to reducing the devastation the disease of addiction causes families, to reduce the stigma and barriers that prevent treatment for patients with opioid use disorders (OUD). As part of the GE Foundation’s commitment to community health and fighting the opioid crisis in Boston and across Massachusetts, this collaboration with Shatterproof, collaborating funder RIZE Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts Medical Society and its physician-led Task Force on Opioid Therapy, will result in the development of a series of behavior change interventions to encourage and enable more health care professionals to screen and treat patients with OUD.
Addiction is a public health crisis that impacts nearly one in three families across the U.S. Around 21 million people in the U.S struggle with addiction, yet only 10 percent of those suffering receive any type of specialty treatment. While there are many contributing factors to this treatment gap, such as lack of screening in the healthcare system and access to evidence-based treatment, patients’ fear of shame or discrimination from healthcare professionals is one of the barriers to seeking care. In an effort to close the treatment gap, GE Foundation, RIZE Massachusetts and Shatterproof will partner, along with the Massachusetts Medical Society to gather insights and reactions from healthcare professionals with the goal of addressing and reducing the stigma associated with OUD. By doing so, the organizations aim to help professionals develop a different approach to screening and treating patients with OUD, while also empowering those suffering with the disease to come forward and seek care.
“The opioid crisis is only growing, making it imperative now more than ever that we work on improving the addiction treatment system,” said Gary Mendell, Founder & CEO at Shatterproof. “With the help of GE Foundation, Shatterproof is able to drive behavioral change at the source of care – professionals. By gatherings these insights, Massachusetts and other states that follow can begin to reduce the stigma and shatter the barriers that prevent treatment for OUD patients.”
In 2016, the GE Foundation announced a $15 million commitment to community health in Boston and greater Massachusetts to help expand care in behavioral health and addiction medicine with a focus on the opioid epidemic. Since kicking off this initiative, the GE Foundation has worked with several partners to attack the opioid crisis from all directions, including prevention like Project HERE with Mass. Attorney General, Maura Healy, risk reduction like the CareZone mobile health van with the Kraft Center and MGH, and treatment and recovery like SUSTAIN (Substance Use Support and Technical Assistance IN Communities) with Mass. League of Community Health Centers, and now stigma.
“As we continue to invest in ways to combat the opioid crisis gripping our community, it’s become clear that addressing the stigma associated with OUD is the next step in this fight,” said Ann R. Klee, President of GE Foundation. “The GE Foundation is focused on improving access to care and bridging the treatment gap between health care professionals and patients. This collaboration helps us attack the crisis from all angles.”
RIZE Massachusetts, an independent nonprofit created to end the opioid epidemic in Massachusetts, is a collaborating funder of the quantitative analysis portion of the partnership. In its efforts to create data on the presence of stigma in the health care workforce, RIZE will work with the appropriate organizations to develop a quantitative analysis of stigma present in the health care providers treating patients with OUD.
“We can continue to improve the care of people with opioid use disorder by understanding more about the presence of stigma and its effect on everyone involved in the treatment and recovery process,” said Julie Burns, Executive Director of RIZE Massachusetts. “RIZE Massachusetts is committed to zero stigma related to opioid use disorder, and being a funding partner with GE Foundation and Shatterproof, on this important research advances our shared goal of increasing the accessibility and effectiveness of treatment across the health care system.”
The Massachusetts Medical Society has been an expert voice in efforts to mitigate the public health crisis born of the opioid epidemic. The organization developed the state’s opioid prescribing guidelines and continues to push for the expanded availability of and training on administering of naloxone. It has also provided opioid-focused continuing medical education courses at no cost to more than 15,000 professionals and has advocated in the Commonwealth and federally for the establishment of a pilot supervised injection facility.
“The Massachusetts Medical Society is pleased to be working with GE Foundation to conduct a needs assessment of physicians and other health care professionals to determine how clinical, educational and administrative burdens, as well as stigma, can be barriers to MAT prescribing, and how to best overcome those barriers,” MMS President Dr. Alain A. Chaoui said. “Improving patients access to medication assisted treatment for substance use disorder is a priority for our organization. MMS is focusing on supporting and encouraging physicians and other health care professionals to prescribe medication assisted treatment for their patients. Although many programs are underway within academic medical centers, community health centers and hospitals, we believe more support is needed to help expand the prescribing of MAT by individual prescribers in the community.”