Michigan’s three largest public research universities will work together to offer local governments help in developing abatement strategies to address the ongoing opioid epidemic, which resulted in more than 3,000 deaths statewide in 2021.
Michigan communities received funding as part of the $1.45 billion total allocation by Johnson & Johnson and three major drug distributors.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services this month initially awarded $600,000 to the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University to establish a Technical Assistance Collaborative.
Teams across the three universities, which comprise the University Research Corridor, will provide resources as communities strive to remediate overdose deaths. Resources include timely and unbiased community needs assessments, analysis with evidence-based recommendations, implementation support and evaluation of efforts to prevent and treat opioid use disorder.
Michigan communities will receive 50% of the state’s total settlement award. The first round of funding was distributed in January, and payments will continue over the next 18 years, without the requirement of state appropriation.
The remaining 50% of settlement funds will be placed into the Michigan Opioid Healing and Recovery Fund, which was created in 2022 by the state Legislature. The Opioid Advisory Commission, also created in 2022 by the Legislature and staffed by the Legislative Council, is charged with making recommendations on the fund’s expenditures.
“Throughout the state, we are using this long-term funding to address the multi-generational impact of the opioid epidemic as well as the racial disparities that exist as part of the opioids crisis,” said MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel.
“Settlement dollars will allow us to further our efforts to decrease substance-use disorders, improve treatment options and improve recovery success. The Technical Assistance Collaborative will help communities implement programs that specifically address their local needs as we work together to combat the opioids crisis.”
Faculty experts from each institution, in collaboration with local government associations, will work with state officials to identify a data-driven list of priority communities to immediately address the most critical populations across Michigan.
“We continue to see the opioid crisis impact every facet of our society — rich and poor, rural and urban, educated and uneducated, adolescents and seniors,” said Rebecca Cunningham, U-M vice president for research.
“We cannot begin to address this crisis by working in silos, and so this new collaborative is designed to break down barriers so that we can all work together, integrating our unique perspectives to find solutions that benefit Michiganders.”
The Technical Assistance Collaborative will be a point of contact for local entities, helping develop and assess communications materials and engagement, launch learning communities and program implementation plans.
“Working together as University Research Corridor partners, we are better able to engage with others across the state to provide the critical training, information and support needed to prevent opioid-related tragedies,” said Timothy Stemmler, interim vice president for research at Wayne State.
“We offer a unique leadership that is critical in addressing this tragic crisis that has impacted families across the United States and around the globe. Wayne State is happy to partner with the University of Michigan and Michigan State University on this important lifesaving endeavor.”
As funds are distributed, the universities will work closely with MDHHS to collaborate, coordinate and develop the mechanisms, organization and processes for delivery and implementation of the technical support.
“Understanding the needs of the impacted communities will be key to the success of this program,” said Douglas Gage, MSU vice president for research. “Our team of world-class researchers and experts in community outreach and engagement will work in partnership with areas hardest hit by the opioid crisis to determine how to best deploy these important resources.”