Another prominent Boston-area business leader is stepping up to address the state’s opioid crisis.
The Kraft Center for Community Health at Massachusetts General Hospital — funded by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and his family’s charitable foundation — on Tuesday rolled out a specially equipped mobile van, dubbed CareZone, to bring health services to Boston residents who are struggling with addiction. The van will rotate between two locations in the city, one in the Dudley Square area and the other close to North Station.
Kraft said he has been alarmed by the number of deaths statewide from opioid overdoses, which, on average, has approached six a day.
“People are falling through the cracks and not getting the care they need,” said Kraft, who has committed $25 million to fund the center since 2011. “We thought we would bring on-demand access to addiction care where people need it the most.”
The Kraft Center covered the $160,000 cost of the van, along with assistance from Ford Motor Co., General Electric Co., and Mass. General’s parent organization, Partners HealthCare. Partners and GE were also involved in launching the Rize Massachusetts initiative last March to help fund innovative ways to deliver addiction services; Partners chief executive David Torchiana, former Partners chairman Jack Connors, and GE chief medical officer David Barash have been among the key movers behind that initiative.
The CareZone van will operate during a test period that could last as long as eight months, with a projected operating cost of $157,000 for that time. GE and the Hearst Foundation are helping the Kraft Center pay for it. Approximately 1,000 antioverdose Narcan kits will be provided by the state Department of Public Health.
Governor Charlie Baker, Mayor Martin J. Walsh, and Attorney General Maura Healey were among the local leaders who joined Kraft at an event at City Hall Plaza on Tuesday to unveil the new van.
Dr. Elsie Taveras, the Kraft Center’s executive director, said the van service has been in the works for the past year. The goal, she said, was to come up with a way to address the city’s biggest public health crisis. The Kraft Center will work with the Boston Public Health Commission and the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program to staff the van, she said.
She hopes the van’s staff can steer addicts toward long-term services.
“Many times, people aren’t coming into a brick-and-mortar facility because of a fear of stigma,” Taveras said.
If successful, the concept could be replicated in other parts of New England, or the country.
“We’re definitely not the only ones nationally that are facing this kind of epidemic,” Taveras said.