CSAC Award

Charlestown Substance Abuse Coalition (CSAC)

The Charlestown Substance Abuse Coalition (CSAC) works to reduce substance use disorders by changing community norms and attitudes, increasing the presence of law enforcement, advocating for additional treatment resources, and engaging in primary prevention within the public schools.


In 2002, the rates of substance abuse-related hospitalizations and drug-related deaths among residents were 50% higher in Charlestown than in Boston overall. In 2004, the majority (70%) of Charlestown admissions to publicly-funded treatment facilities were for heroin and other opioids, compared to 50% for Boston. To address these challenges, a community coalition was formed to reduce substance misuse by utilizing existing community resources, organizing programs to respond to identified needs, and harnessing the community’s energy and commitment to create a safe, healthy environment in Charlestown.

The Charlestown Substance Abuse Coalition works to increase access to and resources for successful treatment and recovery from substance use disorders (SUDS). The Coalition also strengthens protective factors and decreases risk factors to prevent substance use and misuse for youth, young adults and families, through education, prevention, and intervention strategies.  The coalition has nearly 50 active members representing 12 community sectors.

About this Program

CSAC’s efforts have contributed to the following outcomes:

  • Emergency Medical Service responses for heroin overdoses decreased 62% from 2003 to 2010.  
  • Hospital discharges from opioid overdoses decreased by 44% between 2004 and 2009.
  • Between calendar years 2003 and 2008, Charlestown’s drug-related deaths decreased 78%.

2014 Outcomes

  • The Turn It Around, Charlestown social marketing campaign has continued to be promoted through several activities across Charlestown.  The 24-member Turn It Around youth group promoted the campaign and have raised awareness of substance use through community events such as “The Anonymous People” film viewing and a presentation by Chris Herren. In April the youth group set up and ran a drug fact and alternatives to drug use table at the Boston Public Health Commission Recovery Health Fair, where the students ran games and distributed questionnaires to challenge and educate their community about the negative effects of drugs. These youth members got the word out about the annual Prescription Give Back Day where we collected 750 prescriptions, more than ever before.
  • The Community Health Worker (CHW) worked with 175 clients this reporting period making 525 referrals to various substance use disorder treatment facilities in and around Boston; There are now 16 active Drug Court Clients out of the Charlestown Drug Court, which offers treatment as an alternative to incarceration.
  • 450 middle school students received LifeSkills, an evidence based substance use prevention curriculum at the Warren Prescott and Edwards Middle school. AllStars, another evidence based curriculum, is taught to the entire 5th grade class at the Warren Prescott k-8, and LifeSkills was taught to all 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. Additionally, the LifeSkills curriculum was taught in the Charlestown Boys and Girls Club to the 8- and 9-year-old groups. CSAC has trained 20 volunteer community members to teach these prevention programs. 
  • We conducted extensive outreach and relationship building to recruit more community members to join the steering committee. Individuals from 5 underrepresented community sectors, including local schools, youth-serving organizations, addiction treatment facility, faith-based organization, and housing, regularly attended coalition meetings. In addition, a clinical social worker was hired to fill the Family Support Circle position, whose primary goal is to increase communication and collaboration among Charlestown providers when serving high risk youth.

  • We partnered with Boston Public Health Commission to host regular community NARCAN trainings every 90 days in the recovery community, the Charlestown Recovery House and the housing developments. We trained 240 community residents through 12 NARCAN trainings. These community trainings inform opioid users, their families, and their friends on how to recognize and prevent an opioid overdose and what to do if one occurs. The training covers the importance of calling 911, how to perform rescue breathing and how to administer nasal naloxone (NARCAN).We are beginning to see changes in the middle school population.

  • We are beginning to see changes in the middle school population. The percent of middle school youth who reported current drinking (at least once in past 30 days) has declined from 19% in 2007 to 6% in 2014.


The First Annual

Turn It Arround 

Charlestown Basketball Tournament


Friday March 13, 2015

Join us at the Charlestown YMCA for a free pre-tournament pasta dinner 6:00pm – 7:30pm

Find out your team and learn about healthy choices!


Saturday March 14, 2015

10:00am – 3:00pm


Deadline: March 5, 2015

Face Painting/Raffle Prizes/ Pizza



Please Contact:

Derek Gallagher – Boys and Girls Club

Mimi Wrenn – Charlestown Community Center

Michael Letchfield – YMCA

Thomas Washington – Charlestown High School

Or Email Gretchen Wagner at CSAC gwagner1@partners.org

To sign up today!


  • Mass General’s Response to the Opioid Epidemic - 6/16/2015, Mass General

    Mass General Hospital is on the front lines of the opioid epidemic. The MGH Substance Use Disorders (SUDs) program goal is to have substance use disorders addressed along all levels of health impact; from primary community-based prevention to early intervention and treatment to chronic disease management.

  • Turn It Around Youth Group organizes drive to collect hats and gloves - 2/23/2015, Mass General

    The effects of the closing of the Long Island shelter are being felt all over the city, so it’s no surprise that when the Turn It Around Youth Group heard about the displacement of homeless men and women, the young people knew they had to act.

  • Charlestown Community Health Assessment Online Survey now available - 2/17/2015, Mass General

    Charlestown residents will have their say about the community’s overall health by completing a Quality of Life survey beginning today. The survey can be taken online or in paper form.

  • How can Charlestown become a healthier place? - 11/18/2011, Mass General

    There will be a community meeting on Dec. 1, where organizers hope to hear answers to that question. The meeting is part of a community health assessment, sponsored by the MGH Center for Community Health Improvement and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, and coordinated, in part, by the Charlestown Substance Abuse Coalition.


Contact Us

Sarah Coughlin

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