Cross-Systems Work

When two or more systems work together, cross-training is key. Different systems often approach the same topic using different language, procedures and points of reference.

It is important for people working in substance use and addictions to be familiar with the work of collaborating departments, so they can help their clients navigate these systems.

Here are some examples of current and past addiction-related interagency collaborations in Massachusetts

  • ATR - Access to Recovery is a Federally-funded program to give people with substance use disorders wider access to community services to help them start or continue on the road to recovery. MA-ATR is creating an integrated and coordinated system of care that brings together traditional treatment services with a host of non-traditional community and faith-based recovery support services. MA-ATR works in two counties: Hampden County (Springfield area) and Suffolk County (Boston area).
  • NIATx Learning Collaborative for Drug Courts - Launched with support from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Adult Treatment Drug Courts (ATDC) grant program, the goal of this learning collaborative is to teach the grantees to use the NIATx model to improve access to and retention in substance abuse treatment offered through drug courts. The learning collaborative has also been working to spread the use of process improvement to drug courts across the nation.

DCF Substance Abuse Regional Coordinators in each region provide internal case consultation to DCF workers and collaborate with local substance abuse providers to improve linkages and cross-system communication efforts. This coordination was achieved through a memorandum of understanding between DCF and DPH. In addition to these Regional Coordinators, communication efforts and protocols were established at the statewide and local levels to support families, and licensing requirements were updated to require providers have family-centered training, and provide family centered treatment. To find out more, contact the DCF Substance Abuse Manager at 617-748-2000.

On a national level, many resources are available through the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare. Free tutorials are available such as “Understanding Substance Use Disorders” and “Treatment and Family Recovery: A Guide for Child Welfare Professionals”. Technical Assistance is available.

Centered in the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services (BSAS), the Office of Youth and Young Adult Services creates and oversees BSAS programs, policies and initiatives that address addiction among youth and young adults, building and maintaining system capacity across the continuum of care. The directive of the office is to provide effective, accessible and affordable substance abuse treatment for youth and their families. This kind of care necessarily involves coordination among systems, and the Interagency Workgroup on Youth and Young Adult Services provides a foundation for such coordination.


BSAS-funded Mobile Health vans provide low barrier mobile addiction and primary care treatment as well as referrals to mental health, OBGYN services, and chronic disease care. Find out more here.

One BSAS response to the state’s extremely high opioid overdose rates has been its Opioid Overdose Education and Naloxone Distribution Program. Learn more about this program and other responses at

Created under the Massachusetts General LawsRecovery High Schools provide a four-year high school education in an environment that supports recovery. Recovery High Schools are open in BeverlyBostonBrocktonSpringfield, and Worcester.

SBIRT is a public health approach to delivering early intervention to anyone who uses alchohol and/or drugs in unhealthy ways. Implemented in Emergency Rooms, Hospital main floors, Colleges and Community Health Centers in various projects, SBIRT involves physical health or behavioral health staff trained to ask short, effective screening questions; provide a brief intervention to those who screen positive; and make a successful referral where one is indicated. Information about SBIRT in Massachusetts can also be found here.

The goal of integrating primary and behavioral healthcare has led to collaborative projects among:

The Family Recovery Project began with a grant from the Administration of Children and Families in 2007. It was a collaboration between the Department of Public Health (Bureau of Substance Addiction Services) and the Department of Children and Families. 

Family Recovery Councils

These Councils brought together regional providers from Substance Abuse Treatment, Child Welfare, Early Intervention, Mental Health, Corrections, and Medical settings to focus on better serving all family members through communication and shared language, values, and tools.

This Interagency Council was formed in 2005 by Executive Order 467. While not currently active, its purpose was to maximize coordination regularly across state agencies to increase collaboration on key issues relating to substance abuse, treatment and prevention. 

This initiative, which launched in September, 2016, selected four Massachusetts providers to participate in a pilot. Each provider receives an individualized onsite consultation from the Center for Innovative Practices at Case Western Reserve University who will evaluate the provider’s policies, clinical practices, and workforce related to co-occurring disorders. Following this consultation, a customized report is generated, with recommendations for how the organization can become more co-occurring capable.  In addition, providers receive six months of coaching from a NIATx Process Improvement specialist.