Opioid overdose projects begin in Michigan

Feb 18, 2020

A Suboxone tablet, which suppresses opioid cravings and withdrawals.
Credit Max Johnston / Interlochen Public Radio

Work to reduce opioid-related deaths is beginning across the state, as part of a $10 million investment to fight the opioid epidemic.

 

Michigan ranks in the top 15 for drug overdose deaths, according to 2018 figures from the Center for Disease Control.

 

Director of Drug Use Initiatives at Vital Strategies Daliah Heller says not enough communities have access to naloxone, a life-saving drug that can reverse an opioid overdose. 

“People might not call 911 and if 911 is not called at all, the only option is that naloxone at the scene," she says.

The group is partnering with Traverse City-non-profit Harm Reduction Michigan to give out 30,000 naloxone kits.

Heller says they’re targeting the residents who are at the highest risk, like people with opioid abuse disorder or who are incarcerated.

“If people can stay alive, their lives can change," she says. "But if they’re dead, then we’ve lost that opportunity.”

To help, Heller says they will treat addiction in state prisons, using buprenorphine and methadone.

Pam Lynch, the co-director of Harm Reduction Michigan, says she's impressed with what Vital Strategies has been able to accomplish within Michigan's corrections system.

“I think allowing people to be on medicated assisted treatment while on parole or in prison could make a very big difference," she says.

Lynch says the funding has allowed her team to realize their mission. They are now able to open centers in Cadillac, Midland and Gaylord.

“There has been a lot of gatekeeping in Michigan with the funding that’s come down from the federal government with reversing opioid overdose deaths in this state," she says.

Vital Strategies says it will also expand syringe service programs, create public awareness campaigns and use data to help with local overdose responses. More projects are planned to begin across the state within the next six months.