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Gov. Whitmer, Michigan Opioids task forces announces plans to cut opioid deaths in half

Posted at 1:28 PM, Nov 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-14 13:28:33-05

LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Whitmer along with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and other members of the Michigan Opioids Task Forces announced plans to cut opioids deaths in half in the state of Michigan.

The state's strategy will focus on three key areas: preventing opioid misuse, ensuring individuals using opioids can access high-quality recovery treatment and reducing the harm caused by opioids to individuals and their communities, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services(MDHHS).

“We are losing more than five people every single day to opioid overdoses,” said Whitmer. “This epidemic touches all areas of our state and is one of the greatest health crises of our lifetimes. My number one priority is protecting our families and our overall public health, and these efforts will help bring us closer to ending this epidemic.”

The state will be kick-starting a $1 million media campaign aimed at reducing stigma launched by the MDHHS. The campaign will be funded through the State Opioid Response federal grant funds.

"We’re asking for family members and peers of people with opioid use disorder to help us change the script about treatment and dispel the stigma around receiving recovery services for opioid misuse,” said Robert Gordon, MDHHS director. “We want to change criticism to compassion; helplessness to hopefulness. We need to show every Michigander struggling with this medical condition that they are deserving.”

The second point of action will be to enact treatment. MDHHS said it will remove prior authorization requirements for specific medications used to treat these disorders, including buprenorphine as of Monday, Dec. 2, in order to increase access to treatment for Medicaid recipients with opioid use disorders.

“Removing prior authorization for these medications in the Medicaid program eliminates an unnecessary barrier to treatment access for people who are struggling with an opioid use disorder,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health for MDHHS. “By eliminating this requirement, we will increase availability of treatment and increase their chances of a successful recovery.”

The MDHHS said the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) will also be implementing Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) programs with the goal of expanding treatment to all of its facilities by 2023.

MDHHS said more than 20 percent of incarcerated individuals in Michigan has been identified as having an opioid use disorder, and those leaving prison are 40 to 120 times more likely to die of an overdose within two weeks of release.

“Medication-assisted treatment, along with additional substance abuse treatment services, increases the likelihood of long-term recovery, reducing the chance of recidivism,” said Marti Kay Sherry, MDOC acting administrator, Bureau of Health Care Services.

Next, the state will focus on harm reduction.

MDHHS has expanded support for syringe programs (SSP), which is now being offered by 25 agencies, up from 13 from the previous year.

MDHHS said new diagnoses of hepatitis C (HCV) among adults less than 40 years old increased from 292 in 2000 to 3,774 in 2018. MDHHS said where data was collected on HCV diagnoses among adults less than 40 years old in 2018, more than 80 % self-reported a history of injecting drugs.

For more information on the opioid epidemic and efforts to address the issue, click here.

For more information on SSP, click here.

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