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Foundations Support UMass Memorial Health Prescriber Training to Expand Opioid Use Disorder Treatment

  • Grants from The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts, Reliant Foundation and RIZE Massachusetts Aim to Increase Access to Life-Saving Buprenorphine
  • Free training for physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners regardless of clinical affiliation

WORCESTER, Mass. – The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts, in partnership with Reliant Foundation and RIZE Massachusetts, today announced $153,824 in combined grant support for a UMass Memorial Health project aimed at advancing prescriber education and opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment in primary care settings throughout Central Massachusetts.  The goal of this work is to increase access to OUD treatment for patients and to train multidisciplinary providers in both OUD treatment and overdose prevention.

Treatment of OUD in a primary care setting addresses it as a chronic health condition that can be treated like high blood pressure or diabetes.  Seeking treatment in a primary care office can lower mortality, minimize stigma and improve overall health.  One effective treatment is prescribing buprenorphine.  To increase access to this life-saving treatment, the federal government retired previous educational requirements for buprenorphine prescribing.  However, use of buprenorphine has not increased as rapidly as hoped, in part due to lack of provider familiarity and experience with the use of buprenorphine and treatment of OUD.

In Central Massachusetts, the number of overdose-related death continues to climb, particularly in communities of color and rural communities.  Statewide, opioid-related deaths reached an all-time high of 2,357 in 2022, an increase of 2.5% from 2021, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.  By encouraging more prescribers to incorporate OUD treatment into primary care practices, this initiative aims to expand access, normalize treatment and reduce stigma.

“We were eager to support this project because of the opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the worsening overdose epidemic by expanding access to this evidence-based treatment for OUD in Central Massachusetts, a region in which many face barriers to access, especially in rural areas,” said Amie Shei, President and CEO of The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts.  “We are pleased to partner with Reliant Foundation and RIZE Massachusetts in demonstrating a broad base of support for UMass Memorial Health’s important initiative aimed at saving lives.”

UMass Memorial Health, the largest health care system in Central Massachusetts, received a $118,824 grant from The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts, a $20,000 grant from Reliant Foundation and a $15,000 grant from RIZE Massachusetts.

The project aims to increase buprenorphine prescribing capacity in Massachusetts, especially in primary care settings.  To do so, the UMass Memorial Health Road to Care team is developing, and will deliver, free training for physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners regardless of their clinical affiliation.  The course will also allow prescribers to meet current educational requirements within the new, one-time Medication Access and Training Expansion (MATE) Act while providing guidance in diagnosing and treating OUD in their patient populations.

“This training allows providers the opportunity to immerse themselves in a comprehensive learning experience led by experts at UMass Memorial Health,” said Dr. Eric Dickson, President and CEO of UMass Memorial Health.  “We have long been committed to advancing medical care and access to treatment for individuals with opioid use disorder and this training will allow more caregivers to join us in this endeavor to help others.”

“Supporting the battle against the opioid epidemic has become a core tenet of our mission,” said Kelsa Zereski, President of Reliant Foundation.  “There are so many elements to the fight that need our support – including impactful education.  We are focused on building the resources to offer hope and save lives and are proud to be a part of this effort.”

The RIZE Massachusetts grant supports a second component of the project that will bring remote expert care to clinicians through the evidence-based Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes).  The model was first used nearly 20 years ago in New Mexico to facilitate hepatitis C treatment close to home, and its effectiveness for OUD treatment was demonstrated recently in a rural New York health system.

“Evidence-based models like ECHO have been proven to increase prescribing of buprenorphine,” said Julie Burns, President and CEO of RIZE Massachusetts.  “With RIZE’s support, this component will provide the peer and expert guidance that is essential for clinicians to provide nuanced care to patients who may not otherwise be able to access it and save more lives.”

The first training will be held on Dec. 14 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Beechwood Hotel, 363 Plantation St., Worcester, with breakfast and lunch provided.  Register here.  The eight-hour session will also be offered via Zoom. While this session will be held in Worcester itself, providers from across Central MA are welcome to attend. Subsequent sessions will be held in other parts of the region to facilitate participation from more rural parts of the region.  

In addition, Project ECHO modules will provide another opportunity for providers to present and learn from clinically based vignettes regarding OUD and overdose prevention.

About The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts

The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts is dedicated to improving the health of those who live or work in Central Massachusetts, with particular emphasis on vulnerable populations and unmet needs.  Through its unique and impactful approach to grantmaking, the Foundation supports community-identified health issues, with health defined broadly to include social determinants of health and with a focus on promoting health equity.  As a health conversion foundation launched in 1999 following the sale of the not-for-profit HMO Central Massachusetts Health Care Inc., the Foundation’s grants have totaled over $52 million to more than 200 unique organizations over its history.  For more information, visit


About UMass Memorial Health

UMass Memorial Health is the largest not-for-profit health care system in Central Massachusetts with more than 16,500 employees and 2,100 physicians.  We are the clinical partner of UMass Chan Medical School.  Our comprehensive system includes UMass Memorial Medical Center, UMass Memorial Health – Harrington, UMass Memorial Health – HealthAlliance-Clinton Hospital, UMass Memorial Health – Marlborough Hospital, and UMass Memorial Health – Community Healthlink.  Visit


About Reliant Foundation

Established in 1988, Reliant Foundation is an independent public charity, not affiliated with any health care facility or medical group, whose mission is to improve the health and well-being of individuals of all ages in the Central and MetroWest regions of Massachusetts.  As a 501(c)3 charity, the Foundation offers grants to nonprofit organizations within its service area for the purpose of supporting programs that battle critical community health issues like substance use disorder, and children’s mental health.  Our charity partners work with thousands of individuals in our community to provide life-saving recovery coaching, mental health and behavioral health, and impactful education and initiatives to reduce the stigma around these issues.  For more information, please visit


About RIZE Massachusetts

RIZE Massachusetts is the only public-private partnership solely dedicated to funding and creating solutions to end the overdose crisis.  Guided by those with lived experience and unafraid of new ideas, RIZE is building networks, designing programming, and supporting community partners who are using novel approaches to preventing overdose and increasing access to treatment.  Since 2017, RIZE has granted over $13 million to community organizations in Massachusetts.  Learn more at


Media Contacts:

Greg Turner, Ball Consulting Group, LLC, for The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts
Telephone: 617-243-9950; Email:

Debora Spano
UMass Memorial Health
Telephone: 401-258-3081; Email:

Carol Jacobson
Reliant Foundation
Telephone: 508-231-5338; Email:

Alanna Fusco
RIZE Massachusetts
Telephone: 857-991-1195; Email: