Brien Center wins $600,000 grant to expand outreach and services for those with opioid use disorder

The grant targets the homeless, those transitioning from jail, and people referred from emergency departments following an overdose or in need of treatment for opioid use disorder

PITTSFIELD – The Brien Center today announced that it has been awarded $300,00 a year for two years to expand outreach efforts to vulnerable populations within the community who are struggling with opioid use disorder.

The funding, which comes from the Massachusetts Bureau of Substance Addiction Services, will enable the organization to hire additional staff and provide immediate interventions for individuals who have been treated at area emergency departments.

Addiction Specialist Jennifer Michaels, MD, Medical Director of the Brien Center and an attending psychiatrist at BMC, said the grant will specifically target services for the homeless, for individuals who are transitioning from the Berkshire County Jail and House of Correction, and for those who appear at BMC or Fairview Hospital Emergency Departments or North Adams Satellite Emergency Facility seeking help for their addiction or who are transported there after an overdose.

“What’s wonderful about the funding is it allows us to address some of the critical gaps in care for people with this disease,” Dr. Michaels said. “We will be able to provide immediate community–based treatment after an overdose. Patients will be offered evidence-based medications in addition to individual and group therapies for opioid use disorders. These interventions are often lifesaving.”

The new staff funded by the grant will provide outreach to community homeless shelters and the jail.

“We all know that the U.S. is in the midst of an opioid epidemic,” said Christine Macbeth, ACSW, LICSW, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Brien Center for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. “Every 11 minutes, someone in this country dies from an overdose. Yet, opioid addiction is a treatable disease. This generous grant will allow the Brien Center to add to our comprehensive services and expand our outreach efforts.”

The Brien Center will collaborate with BMC to provide continuity of care for all emergency department patients with opioid addiction. “We will provide a rapid bridge from the emergency department to the community,” Dr. Michaels said.

Once referred by the emergency departments to the Brien Center, the patients will receive office-based opioid treatment, including medication and psychotherapy to address addiction. The Brien Center will also provide treatment for psychiatric disorders, which sometimes go hand-in-hand with addiction.

Individuals referred by the emergency departments will have open access to the Brien Center from Mondays through Fridays to obtain medication for opioid use disorder and to become integrated into the Brien Center’s comprehensive addiction services.

Among them are “wraparound” services which treat the whole person by addressing complex issues that go beyond opioid addiction and include psychological problems, family stress and access to primary care. The services also connect individuals with resources that help solve fundamental problems like completing their education, job training, and residential programs.

“We are committed to meeting the needs of our community,” Macbeth said. “This grant will significantly expand our efforts to reach people who need our help, but might otherwise not find our services.”

The Brien Center is Berkshire County’s largest provider of mental health and addiction services.