To: Community Members, ASL Interpreters, and CART Providers

For the past several years, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health/Bureau of Substance Abuse Services (DPH/BSAS) has had an agreement with MCDHH to cover ASL interpreter and CART services for substance abuse treatment. DPH priority areas are substance abuse treatment and programs, such as detox, outpatient, transitional support and residential treatment. The funding has increased yearly since the collaboration originated over a decade ago. This allowed us to cover the increasing demands for all levels of treatment, as well as for recovery support meetings, such as AA, NA, OA, GA, etc. Although these support group meetings are not under DPH mandate, year after year, every attempt has been made to fund communication access for them. DPH and MCDHH have also initiated a number of other projects to address substance use issues for people who are deaf; such as training ASL interpreters to have expertise to work in this venue, and developing a screening tool which is ASL accessible. We have expanded service options by entering into a contractual agreement with a treatment facility in Rhode Island that provides residential treatment services for men who are deaf and hard of hearing.

Because Massachusetts is still in an economic crisis, and because of our agencies' efforts to educate the public about substance abuse, more awareness has led to increased requests for treatment. Our efforts will need to be refocused on those specific treatment needs, and the funding is not enough to continue to cover all of the 12 Step meetings requested. Therefore, starting on December 6th, DPH and MCDHH are committed to continuing coverage for 1 or 2 support groups per region. This change includes AA meetings which are open to the general public as well as AA meetings which are private to individuals in recovery. By setting this limit, the goal is to ensure that all communication access requests for treatment services are covered.

As an option for additional support, some individuals may find it helpful to access online 12 Step meetings conducted in American Sign Language by Deaf people. Links for online groups and resource materials are:

In this time of unprecedented challenges and diminished resources, we are doing everything we can to continue to provide accessible AA groups with fewer resources and increased demand. If you have questions or concerns, please contact Julia Ojeda, Recovery Support Services Coordinator, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, by e-mail at or by phone at 617-624-5147.

We thank you for your understanding as we work through this difficult time and look ahead to better economic times.

Heidi L. Reed
Commissioner, MA Commission f/t Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Michael Botticelli
Director, DPH Bureau of Substance Abuse Services

This information is provided by the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.