Whittier Street Health Center to Address Substance Abuse in Suffolk County, Including Mass. and Cass Area with $1 Million over 5 Years from SAMHSA

  • October 25, 2021


Colette Phillips, 617.413.3750,

Tom Nutile, 508.397.2810,


Program to Target Mass. and Cass and other Suffolk County Neighborhoods

BOSTON – The Whittier Street Health Center has received a five-year grant totaling $1 million from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) which it will use to launch a new program focused on addressing HIV, substance abuse and mental illness among the most vulnerable populations in Suffolk County, including the area known as Mass. and Cass.

Whittier Street Health Center will use the grant to establish the Tri-Diagnosis program to provide services and resources to those with HIV, those fighting substance abuse, and those battling mental health issues.

“This generous grant from SAMSHA, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will allow us to reduce new HIV infections among targeted populations, identify and effectively intervene with those who are at risk for substance abuse, and increase patient education, screening and linkage to treatment options, healthcare and social services for those at risk,” said Frederica M. Williams, President and CEO of Whittier Street Health Center.

“We intend to address these issues throughout the communities that we serve, including the area centered on the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard, known as ‘Mass. and Cass,’ but we realize that Whittier Street Health Center must work in conjunction with other local and state agencies to address this deep, complex and long-standing issue in our communities. We cannot do it alone, but together we can make a difference.”

The main goals of the Tri-Diagnosis program are as follows:

  1. Reduce new HIV infections among targeted populations and increase the number of people who are aware of their HIV status.
  2. Identify and effectively intervene with those who are at moderate or high risk for substance abuse and refer them to WSHC for comprehensive risk reduction counseling and treatment. Increase patient education, screening, treatment options, care coordination and risk reduction for substance abuse clients.
  3. Increase access for high-risk patients with substance abuse problems to the Whittier substance abuse services including the medication assisted treatment program.


Boston has a great need for a program like this as the prevalence of HIV in Suffolk County is 938 per 100,000 people which is almost triple the rate of the rest of Massachusetts with the highest concentrations of HIV incidences occurring in the South End, Roxbury, Jamaica Plain and North Dorchester. This program will go beyond battling HIV as another primary focus being identifying those individuals that are at the highest risk of substance abuse. The area of Boston that has come to be known as ‘Mass. and Cass’ and also as ‘Methadone Mile,’ has become a hotbed for homelessness and drug abuse. There were 351 narcotic related illness (NRI) transports reported in that area in 2016 and those numbers continue to grow as the activities that cause them continue to go unchecked.

The issues of HIV transmission and substance abuse are interconnected in this area as those who are at the highest risk infection are those who share needles. Through this program, Whittier will be able to combat both issues at once. Not only will this program address major health issues, but it is also designed to treat the underlying issues by connecting individuals to behavioral health resources to help them avoid behaviors that put them at risk for HIV and substance abuse.

This program will provide over 300 HIV tests in addition to distributing over 20,000 condoms to these targeted populations while always with the goal to refer patients to WSHC Comprehensive Mental Health and Substance Abuse program. The need for this program is clear and Whittier is happy to be on the forefront of the response to helping Suffolk County’s most vulnerable populations.


Whittier Street Health Center is an independently licensed community health care center with a mission to serve as a center of excellence that provides high quality, and accessible health care and social services that achieve health equity, social justice, and the economic well-being of our diverse patient populations. Whittier is accredited by The Joint Commission (TJC), certified by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) as a Patient-Centered Medical Home, and recognized by the NCQA for its Behavioral Health Integration. Through its locations in Roxbury and North Dorchester, School-Based Health Centers and its Mobile Health Van programs, Whittier serves nearly 30,000 patients and conducts 20,000 community outreach visits annually; its ethnically and racially diverse patient base is primarily made up of individuals from Roxbury, Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, the South End and Greater Boston. Approximately 36% of Whittier’s patients are uninsured. Whittier provides a comprehensive array of 40 healthcare programs and services designed to meet the primary health care, behavioral health, and social needs of the community. Learn more at

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A note about Whittier and COVID-19

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak in our area, we ask all clients and patients to call ahead before coming to any of our sites. We are working to take care of most clients/patients via phone/video encounter so we can meet your ongoing healthcare needs. This is for your safety and so we can provide the highest quality of care to you while following CDC guidance for COVID-19. Please call 617-427-1000 for any questions or concerns.

Whittier will provide COVID-19 testing from 10 am to 4 pm on Monday to Friday. Following CDC guidance, we recommend testing if you have a fever AND one of the following three symptoms: cough OR shortness of breath OR sore throat. Please bring your picture identification and your insurance card (if you have insurance).