Good progress made in efforts to reverse Michigan's addiction epidemic

Michigan has made significant strides over the past year in the prevention and treatment of prescription drug and opioid addiction, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley said.

“The best way to address addiction is to prevent it from happening in the first place,” said Calley, chair of the Michigan Prescription Drug and Opioid Task Force. “This epidemic won’t go away overnight, but we are making progress to save lives and change the outcome for Michiganders. We will always have more to do as long as people are becoming addicted.”

The task force released its findings and recommendations in October 2015, aiming to end the addiction epidemic in Michigan.  Recommendations focused on prevention, treatment, regulation, policy and enforcement.

“It’s encouraging to see so much progress made, but the job won’t be done until we see an end to unnecessary deaths from controlled substances in Michigan,” Gov. Rick Snyder said. “This effort is essential to the health and safety of Michigan families and will remain a priority for our administration.”

Over the past year, progress includes: 

• Replacing outdated technology: $4.5 million was allocated to replace the Michigan Automated Prescription System (MAPS), which will be essential in accurately tracking prescribed controlled substances. Michigan has chosen leading technology provider Appriss to replace and maintain MAPS and the new system is expected to launch in spring 2017.

• Michigan’s Good Samaritan law: Michiganders of all ages can now seek medical attention for a drug overdose without fear of prosecution under legislation signed by Gov. Snyder. This will help save lives by encouraging people to report overdoses without the fear of being arrested.

• Increasing availability of drop-off bins: The state collaborated with many different organizations, such as Walgreens and the Michigan State Police, to increase the availability of prescription drug drop-off bins. All MSP posts have these bins, as well as 20 Walgreens locations across the state. These bins are free, convenient and one of the safest ways to dispose of prescription drugs so they don’t get into the wrong hands.

• Creation of a permanent commission: Governor Snyder created the Prescription Drug and Opioid Commission, which will permanently focus on reducing this epidemic and implementing the task force’s recommendations.

• Expanding treatment options: Pilot programs that will provide Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) to participants suffering with opioid addiction have been introduced in 19 state drug courts, as a result of $750,000 in the Fiscal Year 2017 budget.

• Implementing innovative recovery programs: The MSP is piloting the “Angel Program” at the MSP Gaylord Post. With the assistance of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, this unique program allows an individual struggling with addiction to come to the post during regular business hours to seek help. The individual is matched with an “Angel” volunteer, who is a member of the local community that will be present to support the individual during the intake process and will provide transportation to an identified treatment facility. MSP hopes to expand this program statewide in the next two years.

Additional efforts are also underway within MDHHS including updating Medicaid’s Benefits Monitoring Program (BMP), and launching public awareness campaigns on the dangers of drugs and addiction.

New and emerging threats are also being addressed. In late Sept. 2016, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration issued a nationwide warning about the health and safety risks of carfentanil. Carfentanil is a synthetic opioid that is 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl, which itself is 50 times more potent than heroin. The presence of carfentanil in the country’s street drug supply has been linked to a significant number of overdose deaths in various states, including at least 19 deaths in Wayne County. The MDHHS and MSP, in cooperation with local health partners and law enforcement, are closely monitoring the situation in Michigan.

The state’s formal efforts to address addiction began in 2014 by expanding the use of naloxone, through legislation signed by Snyder requiring:

• EMS to have naloxone on hand and be trained to use it.

• Immunity to be provided to individuals who administer naloxone.

• Naloxone to be available for a person or family member at risk of an overdose, as well as someone in a position to assist.

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