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Winter Plan for Homelessness

Along with the Boston Homeless Solidarity Committee, we are asking for 10 minutes of your time to call or email state and city officials to ask them to create a viable and humanitarian winter plan for homeless individuals. During winter, individuals with unstable housing are at high risk of frostbite, hypothermia, and worsening of chronic illness. The winter season is fast approaching, so NOW is the time to advocate for these services!

Nervous about calling in? Don’t be afraid–you can just read off the script! The more people who call in, the more pressure we put on the state and the city as they determine how to provide safe shelter and other necessities of life to homeless individuals during the winter. Every call matters!

Please call or email the following city and state officials, and feel free to use the corresponding script!

_________________________________________________________________

Monica Valdes Lupi
Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission
617-534-5395
dpaul@bphc.org

Hello,

My name is [NAME]. I am from [YOUR LOCATION IN BOSTON] and I am a student at/employee of [ORGANIZATION/UNIVERSITY/BUSINESS]. I’d like to leave a message for Monica Valdes Lupe.

I am calling to urge Boston Public Health Commission to take leadership in creating a viable and humanitarian winter plan for homeless individuals NOW.

The plan should not be to bus people to sleep on floors in overcrowded conditions. The plan needs to provide safe beds or cots with access to appropriate sanitary facilities. All guests should be engaged and offered a chance to get on the path out of homelessness.

Thank you for taking the time to speak with me and for your attention to this important matter.

_________________________________________________________________

Linn Torto
Executive Director, Massachusetts Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness
(617) 573-1600
linn.torto@state.ma.us

Hello,

My name is [NAME]. I am from [YOUR LOCATION IN BOSTON] and I am a student at/employee of [ORGANIZATION/UNIVERSITY/BUSINESS]. I’d like to leave a message for Linn Torto.

I am calling to urge the Massachusetts Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness to take leadership in creating a viable and humanitarian winter plan for homeless individuals NOW.

The plan should not be to bus people to sleep on floors in overcrowded conditions. The plan needs to provide safe beds or cots with access to appropriate sanitary facilities. All guests should be engaged and offered a chance to get on the path out of homelessness.

Thank you for taking the time to speak with me and for your attention to this important matter.

Letter to the Editor, Boston Globe, July 2016

To the Editor:

We applaud the Globe’s coverage of the epicenter of Boston’s opioid crisis (“Life and Loss On Methadone Mile”) for showing the human faces of some of the most disenfranchised and stigmatized people in our Commonwealth. The residents of “Methadone Mile” are those that have been hardest hit by lack of treatment beds and inadequate funding for recovery services, and are disproportionately poor, people of color, and LGBTQ community members.  We also applaud police efforts to divert people away from the criminal justice system, as criminalization will only result in more criminal records for vulnerable groups without reducing the drug trade.

We object, however, to some of the stigmatizing language used by the Globe. For instance, referring to people as “clean” implies those still struggling with addiction–a chronic medical disease–are “dirty.” Furthermore, calling methadone “just another addiction” is both stigmatizing and inaccurate. Clinical trials have shown that the most effective duration of methadone or buprenorphine is lifelong. We would never say a diabetic using insulin daily is “addicted,” and the same should go for those using medications to treat their substance use disorder. Language creates stigma, and stigma leads to poor outcomes for the most marginalized of our society.

Andy Hyatt, Medical Student, Boston University School of Medicine

Rebecca Lee, Medical Student, Tufts University School of Medicine

Andreas Mitchell, Medical Student, Harvard Medical School

Student Coalition on Addiction Members

Letter to the Editor, NYT, February 2016

To the Editor:

Re “For Mark Willenbring, Substance Abuse Treatment Begins With Research” (Science section, Feb. 23):
We were very pleased to read your article highlighting the work of Dr. Willenbring. As medical and dental students training at institutions across Massachusetts, a state hard-hit by the current opioid epidemic, we are committed to expanding access to the highly effective, evidence-based therapies that physicians like Dr. Willenbring are providing for those struggling with substance abuse. Ensuring that patients are offered proven treatments such as Suboxone and behavioral therapy is a critically important step toward stemming the current epidemic and alleviating untold suffering. We have found, however, that our medical schools provide us with little training on how to implement these treatments, and few of the physicians who can teach us prescribe them. In response to this, we have developed a statewide coalition that seeks to push our medical schools to develop stronger curricula for addiction. We support medical and dental students across the country in demanding increased education and training in providing these validated therapies from their institutions. We want to be a generation of physicians that is equipped to prevent and treat substance abuse.

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy Supports Expanded Suboxone Training

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy spoke at Harvard Medical School about local efforts to combat the opioid epidemic. During the Q&A period, SCA member Danielle Back asked Dr. Murthy if he would support integrating suboxone into medical school curricula nationwide. Dr. Murthy responded that he would support expanded suboxone training for medical students nationwide because, “people living with substance use disorders don’t always have easy access to the medical system […] We should be moving towards essentially a ‘no wrong door policy,’ whereby any interaction with the healthcare system enables someone living with addiction to be able to encounter someone who can provide them with treatment.”

He concludes,  “I would be supportive of expanding our treatment and thinking about substance use treatment as part of the basic toolkit that every physician should have.”

Success!

Along with partners at the Massachusetts Coalition on Addiction Services, the SCA successfully supported increased funding for addiction services. Due to concerns about underfunding for addiction services in the upcoming Massachusetts budget, State Senator Jen Flanagan filed an amendment to restore the Substance Abuse Fund (1595-4510) at $5 million and preserve existing services. This amendment currently has a total of 24 co-sponsors, which represents majority support and will soon be approved!

This amendment funds vital social services, such as:

  •  Programs that place recovery coaches in emergency departments.
    • This contract was recently awarded to High Point Treatment Center and Bay State Community Services in Southeastern Mass.
  • Opioid Urgent Care Centers
    • These programs are in development at SSTAR in Fall River, Community Healthlink in Worcester and Boston Medical Center.
  • Improvements to the BSAS Helpline
  • 3 new Recovery Centers
  • Funding for Learn to Cope
  • Funding for the Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery

Thanks to everyone who called in and advocated on this issue. Your voices have been heard!