The Office of Problem Gambling Services is guided by the public health principles of engagement, empowerment, and equity. The Office works by allocating significant resources to evaluation, prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery support services in order to mitigate the harmful effects of problem gambling and related issues through a variety of community-level strategies.
OPGS programs and services are led by data and community voice to address gambling-related harms throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Programs are implemented across the continuum of care and have a consistent focus on the social determinants of health and equity. To learn more: OPGS Milestones 2016 – 2019 (PDF) | (Word)
Surveillance and Community Engagement
Central to OPGS’ work, community engagement activities are ongoing and inform the Office’s programs and services. An example of our community engagement work is the annual Stakeholder Listening Sessions, where we elicit input from the community – especially those disproportionately impacted by gambling – on programmatic priorities, which informs programs and services. To learn more, read the community engagement reports.
Programs and Services
OPGS contracts directly with community organizations to provide services to individuals and families throughout Massachusetts to prevent and mitigate gambling-related harms, especially for communities disproportionately impacted by gambling. Since 2016, OPGS has built capacity to fund and support over 20 vendors to carry out evidence-based programs and services at the community level. Programs are implemented across the continuum of care and have a consistent focus on the social determinants of health and equity. OPGS programs and services span from awareness and prevention to treatment and recovery support.
Some examples of these programs include PhotoVoice and the Ambassador project. The PhotoVoice project trains and empowers young people to use photography to catalyze change in their communities. The Ambassador Project is a peer-based, community-centered, participatory, and culturally responsive approach to reaching a population at higher risk for problem gambling and to engage them in prevention discussions through individual, group, and community-level interactions.
Workforce and Training Supports
OPGS contracts with vendors to provide workforce support and leadership development through various training activities. Training and leadership development efforts also seek to enhance capacity within priority populations such as Veterans, Men of Color, Asian Americans, and Youth in addition to building the capacity of the workforce of outpatient substance use treatment programs to offer and promote gambling treatment services.
An example of this includes Project Build Up, which is designed to strengthen the capacity of the workforce in outpatient substance use and gambling treatment agencies to provide and promote gambling treatment services, with an emphasis on addressing the needs of populations that are high risk of experiencing problem gambling.
OPGS leads a comprehensive communication strategy centered on our platform: Let’s Get Real about Gambling. The campaigns aim to increase education and awareness of gambling, especially for priority populations. They also direct viewers to resources such as the Problem Gambling Helpline and the OPGS website. The various campaigns are shared via billboards, digital bulletins, on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and other platforms.
To date, communication campaigns include Youth and Parents, Older Adults, and Men of Color that have resulted in over 100 million impressions! Be on the lookout for new campaigns in the future.
Technical Assistance and Evaluation
OPGS is committed to building capacity across all the problem gambling programs and services. Our evaluation framework measures the progress of programming while informing continuous quality improvement. Our two technical assistance centers build community capacity in the prevention and treatment of problem gambling and related issues.
- The Massachusetts Center of Excellence on Problem Gambling Prevention (MCOE PGP) provides capacity building, training, and resource development services to address the prevention of problem gambling and related health issues. Focusing on shared risk and protective factors allows MCOE PGP to address multiple issues simultaneously and achieve a higher level of impact. MCOE PGP currently provides technical assistance to three prevention projects as well as statewide training to community prevention providers.
- The Massachusetts Problem Gambling Treatment Technical Assistance Center (M-TAC) provides a range of services that build the capacity of outpatient treatment programs to address problem gambling and co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders, and to reduce health disparities in their communities. The Center offers training, technical assistance, consultation, and other technical support for problem gambling treatment services across the state. The Center is also managing the MA Problem Gambling Specialist (MA-PGS) certificate, the official problem gambling provider certificate in the state.
Our Community Partners
OPGS has engaged over 2,000 community members along with over 40 community-based organizational partners to inform the development of priorities and ensure that cultural and community perspectives are embedded in our work. Community input has informed over 23 initiatives across the continuum of care: prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery support. These strategies seek to address problem gambling and also explore the relationships between problem gambling and other health concerns, leading to a strong public health response to those issues, individuals, and communities most affected by problem gambling. The unprecedented community engagement of individuals facing the greatest health and racial disparities, with a focus on social determinants of health is blazing a new trail in the field of problem gambling.
Our Strategic Plan
In 2022, the OPGS embarked on developing a new strategic plan to guide its work for the next five years. OPGS’ Strategic Plan: Working Together to Mitigate Harms Associated with Problem Gambling (PDF) | (Word) aims to maximize positive impact on the community and strengthen capacity to continuously improve services and operations. OPGS engaged an array of internal and external stakeholders to draw on their collected insights, be responsive to their needs, and connect and align the work of the Office with the work and priorities of the community and government partners. The plan provides detailed strategies to address problem gambling and explores the relationships between problem gambling and other health concerns — allowing for the continued development of a strong public health response to harms associated with problem gambling.
The plan is implemented by the Department of Public Health. Implementation is overseen by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, assisted by members of other state agencies and community-based organizations.