State Awards $3.4 Million for Targeted Substance-use Intervention in Schools

BOSTON — The Executive Office of Health and Human Services and the Department of Public Health announced $3.4 million in grants to programs in Western and Central Massachusetts that promote ongoing efforts by the Commonwealth to provide community behavioral-health services to middle-school students at risk for substance use, emotional challenges, and conduct problems.

The grants will ensure that the selected agencies are prepared to offer remote community behavioral-health services to high-risk youth enrolled in grades 5-8 who are at risk for substance use, emotional challenges, and conduct problems. The grantees join a roster of 10 other agencies that received grants last year and have been implementing this program model in 18 schools across the Commonwealth for over a year.

“We are focused on ensuring that we continue the progress we’ve already made in the fight against addiction in Massachusetts,” Gov. Charlie Baker said. “These targeted substance-use interventions in schools are especially important now during this challenging and unprecedented pandemic, where we see many folks struggling.”

Four agencies were selected based on their ability to provide access to these crucial services, both in school and in the community, as well as remotely as a result of COVID-19 and the uncertainty of school reopenings. They include the Center for Human Development in West Springfield, Brien Center in Pittsfield, Community Healthlink in Leominster, and LUK Inc. in Fitchburg.

“With disruptions to in-school learning caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, these grant awards will provide critical, timely assistance for students,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders, who directs the state’s COVID-19 Command Center. “With these grants, programs will be better able to respond to students’ and their families’ needs, increase collaboration with schools, and provide support to students in crisis.”

The grant will be distributed over the course of four and a half years, with each program receiving $122,816 this year, and $184,224 each additional year. The awards will be funded through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s State Opioid Response Grant. Last year, when this targeted-intervention grant program launched, the state awarded $17.1 million to 10 organizations over six years.

“Massachusetts is taking action to reinforce protections for children in these unprecedented times,” said Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel. “The expansion of this grant program will ensure that at-risk youth receive the services they need to prevent substance use, help combat the opioid epidemic, and support families during the COVID-19 state of emergency.”