November 3, 2022
VIDEO: Rep. Pressley, Mayor Wu, Public Health Commissioner Ojikutu Celebrate $493,000 Federal Grant to Tackle Structural Racism in Public Health
First-Of-Its-Kind Funding Informed by Pressley’s Anti-Racism in Public Health Act Will Help Boston Address Racial Disparities in Homelessness, Substance Use Disorder
BOSTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, and Commissioner of Public Health and Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission Dr. Bisola Ojikutu held a roundtable discussion with public health advocates to highlight the nearly $493,000 in new federal funding to help Boston address the public health impacts of structural racism.
The first-of-its-kind funding, which is informed by Rep. Pressley’s, Rep. Barbara Lee’s and Senator Elizabeth Warren’s Anti-Racism in Public Health Act, will support the City’s work to develop equitable responses and address racial disparities in homelessness and substance use disorder.
Joining Rep. Pressley, Mayor Wu, and Commissioner Ojikutu at the discussion were Dr. Charles Anderson, President & CEO of The Dimock Center; Dr. Denise De Las Nueces, Chief Medical Officer at the Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Program; Dr. Miriam Komaromy, Medical Director at the Boston Medical Center’s Grayken Center for Addiction; and Windia Rodriguez, Recovery Coach Program Manager at Mass. General Hospital’s Substance Use Disorders Initiative.
“Structural racism is a public health emergency and we need policies and budgets that treat it as such,” said Rep. Pressley. “This first-of-its kind federal funding, which is in line with our Anti-Racism in Public Health Act, will help Boston confront the dual crises of homelessness and substance use disorder with the anti-racist lens needed to ensure an equitable response. This is a matter of life and death for our communities, and these are the types of investments we need in this moment. I was proud to join Mayor Wu, Commissioner Ojikutu, and our partners today to discuss the City’s vision for this federal funding and I look forward to working closely with them to see it implemented.”
“This grant will empower the Boston Public Health Commission to push for new ideas that show the potential of making a difference when we address the root causes of challenges,” said Boston Mayor Michelle Wu. “I want to thank Congresswoman Pressley for her vision and leadership on this issue that she has championed since her time on the City Council.”
“Homelessness and substance use disorder are cyclical. Centuries of oppression and racism have marginalized communities of color in myriad ways, and racial inequities persist, including in the services people receive,” said Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, Commissioner of Public Health and Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission. “This grant funding will enable us to explore new practices to effectively expand equitable access to low-threshold housing and break these cycles.”
“This new federal funding will provide the Boston Public Health Commission with the necessary tools to address health care disparities in Massachusetts,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren. “I’m thrilled that the provisions we laid out in our Anti-Racism in Public Health Act are being used to confront inequity and discrimination in our health care system. And I am thankful to Congresswoman Pressley, Mayor Michelle Wu, Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, and public health advocates for organizing this critical discussion. ”
“I applaud Congresswoman Pressley for her vision that is grounded in the same habits of positivity we practice at the Dimock Center and in our home – for every problem there is a solution. In this context, solution is a verb, not a noun,” said Dr. Charles Anderson, President & CEO of The Dimock Center. “This historic funding will support us in the process of solving these challenging problems.”
“The public health implications of structural racism are deeply felt among individuals experiencing homelessness. Black, Indigenous, and people of color experience homelessness at higher rates than whites due to historical and structural barriers; are subjected to stricter policing resulting in a higher rates of criminal justice involvement; and have been significantly impacted by the opioid overdose epidemic in our state,” said Dr. Denise De Las Nueces, Chief Medical Officer, Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program. “This data underscores the far-reaching impact of structural racism on the health and well-being of patients served by BHCHP staff on a daily basis. We are deeply grateful to the Office of Health and Human Services, the Office of Minority Health, Congresswoman Pressley, Senator Warren, Mayor Wu, and Dr. Ojikutu for their investment in programming aimed at reducing the burden of homelessness and substance use disorders among BIPOC communities in Boston.”
“I have worked in the field of addiction treatment for most of my life. I have seen that systemic racism affects all aspects of the development, treatment, and recovery for Black, LatinX, and other people of color,” said Dr. Miriam Komaromy, Medical Director of Boston Medical Center’s Grayken Center for Addiction. “We need strong and sustained anti-racist changes in our addiction treatment system in order to help everyone to have equitable access to high-quality treatment and opportunities for recovery.”
Last month, Rep. Pressley, Senator Warren, and Congresswoman Barbara Lee applauded the new funding for BPHC, which was awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) alongside nine other grants to community organizations across the country. In total, HHS awarded over $4.8 million to support local efforts to address policies that may create or perpetuate health disparities and contribute to structural racism.
The Anti-Racism in Public Health Act, which the lawmakers re-introduced in February 2021, would confront structural racism as a public health crisis through two bold new programs within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including a grant program supporting research and coordination on the science and practice of anti-racism in the provision of health care. The new funding was awarded under HHS’ Community-Driven Approaches to Address Factors Contributing to Structural Racism in Public Health initiative, a pilot program modeled after Section 4a2b of their legislation and established by a provision championed by Reps. Pressley and Lee in the FY2022 appropriations legislation.