WORCESTER, Mass. - UMass Memorial Health is launching a new program that looks to increase the access to life-saving opioid use disorder treatment, also known as OUD.

The program will also train local clinicians in the area in both OUD treatment and prevention. UMass was awarded grant money by the Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts, the Reliant Foundation and Rize Massachusetts.

The program comes at a time the Department of Public Health is reporting a continued climb in overdose-related deaths. DPH officials say opioid-related deaths reached an all-time high of 2,357 in 2022, an increase of 2.5% from 2021.

UMass Memorial Health's chief opioid officer Dr. Kavita Babu said incorporating OUD treatment into primary care will help normalize treatment and reduce stigma.

"It's just an opportunity to highlight how access to treatment saves lives," Kavita said. "So, one of the challenges is that unfortunately, Worcester had the tragic distinction of being one of the areas in the state with the greatest increase in the number of opioid-related overdoses last year. So, this program is an all-hands-on-deck way of upscaling the provider population in this region with respect to identifying opioid use disorders and treating them."

In total, the grant is for more than $153,000. OUD trainings are scheduled to begin in December.