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Substance Abuse Bureau Receives National Award

BOSTON -- The Boston Public Health Commission's substance abuse treatment bureau will be honored Thursday, Oct. 29, by the National Hispanic Science Network (NHSN) on Drug Abuse.

The Bureau of Addictions Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery Support Services (APTRSS) will receive the National Award of Excellence in Service by a Community Organization/Agency at NHSN's annual conference in Miami, FL. The award is presented to an organization or agency that has made significant efforts in promoting culturally relevant and evidence-based clinical services on Hispanic drug abuse.

"This award is a testament to our decades-long work to reduce substance abuse in Boston, especially among Latino residents," said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the Commission's executive director, who is originally from Puerto Rico. "I would like to thank NSHN for recognizing our commitment and efforts."

One of six bureaus at the Commission, APTRSS manages the city of Boston's comprehensive system of addiction services. The bureau has a long history of working to fill gaps in substance abuse treatment for the city's Latino residents. The Mom's Project opened in 1988 to provide HIV prevention and education to Latina and African American women with a history of substance abuse. It is now a full outpatient treatment program for this historically underserved population. Entre Familia, Boston's first city-operated residential treatment program for Latina women and their children, opened in 1996.

"Prior to the Mom's Project and Entre Familia, Boston had no specialized services for Latina women," said Rita Nieves, director of the APTRSS Bureau. "We needed to create programs that provided linguistically and culturally appropriate services for Latino residents."

In 2007, Latinos residents had the highest substance abuse mortality rate among all reported racial/ethnic groups, according to the Commission's latest Health of Boston report. From 1999 to 2007, the rate for Boston's Latino residents increased more than 500 percent. In comparison, the rate for Black and White residents decreased 20.3 percent and 8.3 percent, respectively, from 2006 to 2007.

To close the disparities gap, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino last year opened the Moving On to Recovery and Empowerment (MORE) program, which aims to prevent HIV infection among black and Latina women in substance abuse recovery.

The Bureau also spearheaded a study on the treatment of Latina women who suffer from co-occurring conditions: drug use, mental health, trauma, and HIV risk behaviors. Boston's integrated model of treatment was approved by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) for inclusion in the National Registry of Evidence-Based Practices and Programs.

"It's not enough to simply treat the substance abuse," Nieves said. "We have to treat the whole person and all of the conditions that affect the substance abuse and recovery and we must do so in a safe environment."

Last month, the Bureau received two new grants totaling $2.4 million to expand and enhance treatment and recovery services for women reentering the community after incarceration and for Latino and African American men ages 18 and older with a history of substance abuse and mental health issues.

Founded in 2001, the NHSN brings together scientists and students from the United States, Latin America, and Spain to promote new discoveries in Hispanic drug abuse research and to train and mentor promising young scientists in drug abuse research careers.

"This award honors (the Bureau's) efforts toward implementing and culturall