The U.S Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention (OJJDP) has awarded a 3-year, $1 million grant to the newly formed Young Adult Empowerment Collaborative of Western Massachusetts. This project is designed to positively impact opioid-affected young adults ages 16-24 in Berkshire, Franklin/North Quabbin, Hampden, and Hampshire counties through the use of data-driven strategies. Massachusetts is one of only six states to receive the grant, along with California, Florida, Georgia, Oregon, and Tennessee.

According to a press release announcing the grant, preliminary data is showing that young adults in Massachusetts are at increased risk of opioid misuse. Over 25% of opioid-related deaths occur among 18 to 25-year-olds with growing rates of incarceration for this population. The Young Adult Empowerment Collaborative of Western Massachusetts was created to enhance and strengthen existing efforts to impact 128,017 youth, ages 16-24, in 105 cities and towns across 2,300 square miles in Berkshire, Franklin/North Quabbin, Hampden, and Hampshire counties.

Berkshire County collaborative partners include Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, the Berkshire Opioid Addiction Prevention Collaborative, and Rural Health Network.

Jennifer Kimball, BRPC's Senior Planner for Public Health and BOAPC Coordinator said, “The Berkshire Opioid Addiction Collaborative is honored and excited to be part of this partnership. We are stronger together, and through this effort, we will be able to work in an informed manner to prevent youth substance misuse in Western Massachusetts.”

Northern Berkshire Community Coalition Executive Director Amber Besaw said, "The transition to adulthood is a critical time for youth in North Berkshire. We are delighted to be included in this initiative to support evidence-based programming and community supports to enhance the health and wellness of our young adults."