Michigan is receiving nearly $80 million in federal funding to help counter the opioid crisis across the state.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services will be distributing the grant money to programs that aim to improve the prevention and treatment of opioid addiction, and reduce harm stemming from the crisis.
To that end, part of the funding will increase the distribution of naloxone (also known by the brand name Narcan), a drug use to reverse an opioid overdose.
Money will also go to programs that train physicians, nurses, and physician assistants in emergency departments to better care for people who are addicted to opioids.
That care includes prescribing the drugs buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone, which have been proven by studies to ease withdrawal. For that reason, they’re referred to as “evidence-based” treatments.
Andrea Taverna is the senior advisor for opioid strategy at the state health department. She says at the end of a traditional emergency-room visit, an overdose survivor might leave with nothing more than a list of doctors to call about a follow-up appointment.
"You’re not very likely to take that list of providers and call around until you find someone who can help you,” she said. “You’re much more likely to return to using opioids."
The Michigan Opioid Partnership, which falls under the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, is one program providing training and grant money to emergency departments.
Over the next two years, the partnership will receive and distribute $6.5 million from the federal grant funding, according to Sarah Wedepohl, the director of health initiatives at the foundation.
That partnership also distributes grant money to county jails that want to provide addiction treatment to inmates.
Wedepohl says at many jails, inmates with substance use disorders don’t receive those evidence-based medications.
“Which is really dangerous, because when they’re released they have a much higher chance of overdosing because their threshold for the drug to be effective is changed,” she said.
8,000 Michiganders have died from overdoses in the last five years, according to MDHHS. Between April and July this year, calls to emergency medical services for opioid overdoses was up 22% compared to the same period in 2019.
Another group receiving funding, the Michigan Opioid Collaborative at the University of Michigan, supports primary care physicians, psychiatrists, and other clinicians across Michigan who want to administer these evidence-based treatments within the relative privacy of their own practices.
Dr. Allison Lin, a U of M addiction psychiatrist who co-leads the program, says the program intends to remove barriers to treatment for patients, and training and information for clinicians.
“As a state in particular, we have to think about how can we grow and sustain programs to make it easier for patients to get needed and effective treatments,” she said.