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Whitmer, MDHHS announce $80M for state's opioids crisis response

Investments will go towards prevention, treatment and harm reduction services.
Credit: AP
In a photo provided by the Michigan Office of the Governor, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the state during a speech in Lansing, Mich., Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020. Whitmer announced that she will allocate nearly $65 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act dollars to Michigan school districts, higher education institutions, and other education-related entities that have been most significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Michigan Office of the Governor via AP)

LANSING, Mich. — On Monday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and the Michigan Opioids Task Force announced $80 million in federal funding to respond to the ongoing opioids crisis. The funds will support prevention, treatment and harm reduction services, with a focus on evidence-based practices that save lives.  

The funding includes $36.4 million from the new State Opioid Response II (SOR II) grant and $43.1 million from an extension of the current State Opioid Response I (SOR I) grant. 

According to a press release from the state, over the last five years, opioid overdoses have killed 8,000 Michiganders. In 2018, five people died on average every day from opioid overdoses. 

The crisis has become even more acute during the COVID-19 pandemic; calls to emergency medical services for opioid overdose were 22% higher from April to July 2020 than during the same period in 2019. 

“The opioid epidemic has devastated families across Michigan, and we must continue to do everything we can to end it. This funding will help prevent more opioid deaths and help those struggling with addiction recover,” Gov. Whitmer said in the release “I will continue working closely with Dr. Joneigh Khaldun and members of the Michigan Opioids Task Force to keep Michiganders safe.” 

Michigan’s opioids crisis response is supported by the grants from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration. The SOR II grant begins Sept. 30 and continues for two years. MDHHS also received approval to extend the SOR I grant for a third year from Oct. 1, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2021. The MDHHS Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Administration, Office of Recovery Oriented Systems of Care is the recipient and administrator of the grants. 

“Opioid overdose continues to be an ongoing crisis in Michigan and MDHHS is acting with utmost urgency to expand services that save lives, including medications to treat opioid use disorder and naloxone, the life-saving opioid reversal medication,” Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy director for health at MDHHS said in the release. “We urge local governments, health providers, law enforcement and organizations around the state to partner with us in this vital mission.”  

Funding from the SOR I and SOR II grants will deepen the state’s investment in widespread naloxone distribution and expanding access to medications to treat opioid use disorder. The grants will support start-up costs for new and expanding treatment providers offering medications, as well as providing free training and clinical supports. A new program will seek to increase retention in treatment by offering incentives to patients who attend consistently. 

SOR II funding will go towards improving medical care following an overdose by making medications to treat opioid use disorder available in emergency departments and creating follow-up programs to conduct wellness checks on overdose survivors. Other steps to reduce harm from the opioid crisis, including distributing sterile syringes, building trust with individuals actively using substances and conducting extensive naloxone distribution, will continue to expand as well. 

Many programs in the grants address intersections between the opioids crisis and other systems, including programs will support diversion of individuals from the criminal justice system to treatment, expansion of treatment in correctional facilities and courts and assistance with reentry for individuals leaving incarceration. Other work focuses on pregnant and parenting women; social determinants of health like housing and transportation; and reducing racial disparities in overdose mortality. Finally, the grants will continue successful work to prevent substance use disorders through prevention education, again with a focus on how social determinants of health impact health outcomes. 

A summary of how the new SOR II grant supports the state’s opioids strategic plan is available online, and a summary of projects supported by SOR I funding is available here.  

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