Whitmer announces funding plan to battle opioid crisis

Payne Lubbers
The Detroit News
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks in support of the Michigan Opioid Partnership and its strategy of combining public and private funds to support treatment programs for people trying to overcome opioid addiction.

Detroit — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday announced recipients of grant funding through a newly created Michigan Opioid Partnership in an effort to decrease opioid overdoses and deaths. 

"Our goal is to implement medication-assisted treatment programs in hospitals, emergencies rooms and jails to get more people on track to recovery," Whitmer said at an afternoon press conference at Wayne State University. 

The partnership will give a combined $1.3 million in grant funding to Munson Medical Center in northern and lower Michigan and Beaumont Hospital in southeastern Michigan to increase medication-assisted treatments.

Medication-assisted treatment combines behavioral and medications to treat substance-abuse disorders, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Whitmer's office cited programs in California and Massachusetts as successful implementations of the treatment. 

"The opioid epidemic has devastated families across the state. It's hurt our economy. It's really threatened our families in every part of Michigan," she said. "The opioid crisis knows no boundaries."

In 2017, 2,053 Michigan residents died of opioid overdoes, a 13.8% increase from the previous year, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. 

In addition to Beaumont Hospital and Munson Medical Center, the Wayne State University Center for Behavioral Health and Justice will receive funds to expand the use of medication-assisted treatment in jails throughout the state. 

"Right now, only 25% to 30% of prison and jail inmates are able to receive drug abuse treatment, while over twice that many are confronting some sort of substance-abuse disorder," Whitmer said.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief deputy director for Health and chief medical executive for DHHS, said outpatient treatment for addiction should be no different than treatment for other diseases, such as diabetes. She said the usual treatment for overdoses in the emergency room does not provide sufficient outpatient care. 

"We watch them for a few hours, and you know what we do? We send them home," Khaldun said. "We send them home with the usual stack of difficult to understand discharge instructions. No medication, no treatment, no appointment to see someone who can help them."

The Michigan Opioid Partnership is a public-private partnership between the state of Michigan and nonprofits, including the Michigan Health Endowment Fund and the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation.

The partnership "will address the growing opioid epidemic through prevention, treatment, harm reduction and sustained recovery," according to the partnership's website. 

"Addiction is not a moral failing; addiction is a disease. But we can combat addiction when we work together," Whitmer said.