Family members who have lost loved ones in the opioid epidemic will be able to apply for cash grants from the city of Boston, possibly by summer.

The money for the "Family Overdose Support Fund" comes from an initial $6 million in funds that is part of Boston’s portion of a statewide settlement with opioid manufacturers for their part in the crisis, and was announced on Friday by Mayor Michelle Wu’s office and the Boston Public Health Commission. $250,000 will be available this year to start.

Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, commissioner of public health and executive director of the BPHC, said on Monday that Boston’s portion of that $230 million would eventually reach $22 million or more, and that a series of community input meetings were crucial in prioritizing how the funds were to be spent.

"We believe that if we allocate these funds appropriately, we can really help to right some tragic wrongs that have occurred as a result of this epidemic,” Ojikutu said. “One of those tragic wrongs is the loss of family members … And we know that there are many grandparents, caring for young children who are not only grieving and have suffered an enormous emotional toll, but they've also suffered a financial burden because of this.”

Ojikutu said, based on the community meetings, the city was working through other priorities in terms of how to distribute the opioid settlement money, including expanding distribution of Narcan, a drug which can prevent overdose deaths, and better access to affordable housing.

“I honestly think supportive housing, low threshold housing, affordable housing is one of the greatest hurdles we have to overcome when we think about the overdose crisis,” said Dr. Sarah Wakeman, the senior medical director for substance use disorder at Mass General Brigham.

Wakeman said even with effective, life-saving treatments available for substance use disorder, especially for patients she sees every day, being homeless can be an insurmountable barrier to mental health.

“If you are dealing with ongoing daily trauma and houselessness and the basic sort of survival needs of living on the street, it's very hard to engage in substance use disorder care, even if it is available,” Wakeman said. “And I often think as a doctor, if I could prescribe someone housing, I would be a much more effective clinician than the many other tools I have in my toolbox.”

Wakeman lauded the influx of funds to address Boston’s pernicious and inequitable problems when it comes to the opioid epidemic.

Recent Boston statistics on fatal overdoses have been alarming — Ojikutu said the city saw a 36% increase in opioid-related deaths from 2019 to 2022, “more than twice the statewide rate of increase over the same time period.”

“I think it's also important to note that opioid related overdoses have disproportionately impacted Black and Latinx individuals in Boston during the period 2020 to 2022," Ojikutu said. "The mortality rate related to opioid overdose for Black residents was about 66% higher than for white residents. And for Latinx residents, it was about 31% higher. So clearly, these are problems that are impacting many communities across Boston. And we certainly are laser focused on what we can do to address this.”