Boston Medical Center has received a $25 million donation—the largest in its history—to help open a new opioid treatment center to combat the drug abuse epidemic.
As first reported in the Boston Globe, the safety-net hospital was the recent recipient of a $25 million donation from billionaire investor John Grayken and his wife, Eilene, which will go toward the launch of the Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine. It is the largest donation in Boston Medical Center's history and also marks the largest private gift made in years toward addressing the issue of addiction.
BMC President and CEO Kate Walsh said it is unique for someone in philanthropic circles to make a contribution of that size toward the research, education and prevention of drug abuse.
BMC serves a large low-income patient population that makes it unlikely it would receive a large donation from a grateful former patient.
While the opioid epidemic has drawn increased attention to the issue of addiction in recent years, private donations for combating the disease have been few and far between over the past 20 years. Walsh called the Graykens' donation a "leadership gift" that will hopefully encourage others to provide similar philanthropic support.
“This gift and their willingness to be public about it has really brought addiction medicine out of the philanthropic shadows,” Walsh said. “People donate all the time to cancer and heart disease and have their names on buildings. But there's very little publicity around the struggles in these diseases, and in some cases they're just as fatal.”
Part of the problem has been the stigma surrounding addiction that makes it more difficult to garner the kind of public support given toward fighting other diseases and conditions.
“Those charitable dollars tend to flow to what people are talking the most about or what are they making most public,” said Mark Larkin, a member of the board of directors for the Association of Healthcare Philanthropy. “There is some giving toward addiction medicine and behavioral health, but it tends to be much quieter.”
The number of drug overdose deaths continues to climb in the U.S. There were more than 52,000 drug overdose deaths in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nearly half of all drug overdose deaths that year were due to using either opioid-based prescription pain relievers or heroin.