Record $10 million gift to aid South Shore Health System in treating addiction, mental health
The Patriot Ledger - 2/28/2019
Feb. 28-- Feb. 28--WEYMOUTH -- Marking the largest private gift in the hospital's nearly 100-year history, South Shore Health System today received a $10 million donation that will help it fight the public health crises surrounding substance abuse and mental health.
The donation will allow South Shore Health System, the parent organization that operates South Shore Hospital, to launch the Grayken Center for Treatment, named after benefactors John Grayken, a Cohasset native, and his wife, Eilene Davidson Grayken. The couple in 2017 made a $25 million donation to Boston Medical Center for the same purpose.
"We have various family members impacted by addiction and I'm in recovery myself, and we saw how effective the donation was at BMC and the scale of the problem," Davidson Grayken said in a phone interview from her native England this week. "I've met a lot of people on the South Shore who have lost family members or who are suffering with addiction, so it's a hard-hit area."
Grayken, founder and chairman of the Lone Star Funds investment firm, and Davidson Grayken, an international theater producer, are among the country's most generous philanthropists.
Davidson Grayken said the donation will allow the South Shore Health System to collaborate with Boston Medical Center to launch the best, most effective treatment programs for people on the South Shore.
"(Boston Medical Center experts) have been doing the work for a long time and have the expertise, so it makes sense to work with them to see what makes the most difference and saves the most lives," she said.
In the last six months, South Shore Health System's clinical staff has worked closely with Boston Medical Center'sGrayken Center for Addiction to learn from its models of care.
For example, South Shore Health system has adopted an anti-stigma campaign known as Words Matter.
Gene Green, South Shore Health System's president and CEO, said the Graykens' donation will have an immediate impact on education, training and ambulatory practices. Ultimately, Green said the donation will allow the health system to launch a rapid-care unit where those suffering from substance abuse can begin treatment.
"It's wonderful that people understand that the impact is needed in the community," Green said. "There's a whole group of treatment options available and enough evidence to show that it works, so we just need to move the thinking forward and start treating people sooner."
Doctor Jason Tracy, chief of emergency services, said South Shore Health System's staff is "desperately seeking something different" in the approach to treating patients with substance abuse and mental health problems.
"We want to impact lives in a positive way, and when you don't have the resources to hand the patients off to, it's extremely difficult," Tracy said.
Tracy said the addiction treatment system remains fragmented in many ways, making it difficult for families to navigate through it and find the services they need. Working with Aspire Health Alliance, formerly South Shore Mental Health, and other existing resources, Tracy said the health system envisions providing a bridge for patients who need to be connected to longer-term care.
Opioid addiction now affects 20 million Americans and claims more lives than traffic accidents. Tracy said the health system has seen a decrease in opioid overdoses annually since 2016, but it remains a massive public health issue, along with alcoholism. He said the ratio of patients seen in the emergency room suffering from alcohol addiction versus opioid addiction is about six to one.
"Alcohol really is a huge problem in our community," he said.
Addiction falls under the umbrella of mental health disorders, and many patients have co-existing conditions that need to be addressed as well. Borrowing the words of Aspire CEO Antony Sheehan, Tracy said the health care system needs to "put the head back on the body" and treat mental health as it does overall health.
Tracy said South Shore Health has made strides in building connections with community groups, first responders and social service providers, laying the groundwork for the Grayken's donation to have a huge impact.
"This gives comfort to the Graykens to know we're truly vested and we've accomplished a lot with limited resources," he said.
The Graykens' gift is part of the largest campaign in the health system's history. The effort, called "Mission Critical: The Campaign for Our 2nd Century," aims to raise $70 million by the year 2022, which will mark South Shore Hospital's 100th anniversary.
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