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MA Attorney General Awards $3M for Social Determinants of Health

The grants will help address social determinants of health such as food security, housing, and addiction treatment access.

social determinants of health

Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- Thirteen community health groups will split nearly $3 million in grant funding from the Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Health. These grants will fund projects across the Commonwealth that aim to address the social determinants of health.

The funding, which comes from settlements reached by the AG’s Health Care Division, aim to help drive health equity across the state.

Although Massachusetts is known for its world-class hospitals, health disparities persist. Too often, healthcare interventions focus on healing a medical issue rather than mitigating the root causes of poor health.

“As a state and as a country, we continue to spend most of our health care dollars treating people who are already sick, rather than investing to keep people healthy,” said AG Healey. “These grants will support new partnerships to improve nutrition, housing, and other social determinants to protect the health of every Massachusetts resident.”

These grant recipients aim to address those social determinants that impact health.

Funds will go to 13 community groups across the Commonwealth, including in Everett/Revere, Greater Lynn, Boston, Lowell, New Bedford, Worcester County, Hampden County, Franklin County, and organizations in Western Massachusetts.

Additionally, funding will go toward projects that focus on the entire state.

The Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance, in partnership with the Community Healthlink, Inc., the Duffy Center, and Mercy Healthcare for the Homeless Program, address the issue of chronic homelessness and how it impacts health.

The groups tap community health workers to identify and work with chronically homeless individuals who heavily utilize the emergency department and mental health services. Community health workers engage patients to connect them with stable housing and direct them to more appropriate and cost-effective sources of care.

Other community health projects look to address different social determinants of health. For example, Children’s Services of Roxbury works to address mental healthcare access for the youth by implementing music therapy for patients who have experienced trauma.

The program, in partnership with Boston Public Schools, Beats, Rhymes & Life, Boston Afterschool & Beyond, and the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, specifically engages those children who are resistant to traditional methods of mental healthcare.

The LUK Crisis Center, Inc. partnership with UMass Memorial HealthAlliance-Clinton Hospital addresses addiction through family-centered approaches. Specifically, the program aims to promote addiction prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery reform.

“This program in partnership with UMass Memorial Health Alliance-Clinton Hospital creates community-clinical linkages by providing rapid response and increased access to address the needs of those with substance use disorders, including opioid addiction, and their families,” said LUK Inc. CEO Beth Barto. “The program helps stabilize the family system, reduce/eliminate substance use, and increase social supports. The agency is extremely thankful for the Commonwealth’s support for this programming.”

And the Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB), which does work in partnership with the Cambridge Health Alliance, Good Measures LLC, Tufts Health Plan, and Institute for Community Health, will use grant funds to create a monthly food market in Revere. Additionally, the community health partners plan to hold regular health fairs at which patients may receive screenings, vaccinations, and information about social services.

“At GBFB, we know that ending hunger will require more than access to healthy food,” said Catherine D’Amato, president and CEO of GBFB. “We are honored to partner with Cambridge Health Alliance-Revere, Good Measures, the Institute for Community Health and Tufts Health Plan to find new and innovative ways to address the scourge of hunger and food insecurity and are grateful to the Attorney General’s office for providing critical resources to make this ground-breaking work possible.”

These grants come as more community stakeholders recognize the importance of addressing the social determinants of health in creating healthier societies. In addition to local and state governments, healthcare payers and hospitals alike are supporting efforts to mitigate social health factors, ideally targeting the downstream causes of certain health disparities.

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