Michigan reported 2,036 opioid overdose deaths in 2018, according to data from the Michigan Department of Health Human Services (MDHHS), and Governor Gretchen Whitmer plans to reduce this number by half over the next five years. The state received $17.5 million in federal grant money to take on the crisis, and recently announced its spending plan, which includes, among other grant initiatives, its ‘End the Stigma’ campaign.
As part of this campaign, MDHHS’s website states, “Many words associated with substance use disorder are stigmatizing and using those words can prevent people who need treatment from seeking help. People with substance use disorders and people in recovery are more likely to seek substance abuse treatment and maintain sobriety when they develop social connections. Isolation, discrimination and prejudice are obstacles to social inclusion…You can contribute to reducing stigma and promoting social inclusion by:
- Treating people affected by substance use disorder with respect.
- Learning about the science of mental health conditions.
- Correcting others who have misconceptions about substance use disorders and mental illnesses.
- Supporting resources for people affected by mental illnesses.
- Share End the Stigma campaign materials.”
State administrators are focusing on drawing awareness around the way opioid use disorder is discussed. The MDHHS says, “By rewinding the negativity and reworking the narrative, we can start conversations that lead to healing. And see opioid use disorder not as a weakness or choice, but for what it really is: a medical condition. Words can hurt but they can also heal. Use yours to end the stigma of opioid use disorder.”
The department is encouraging loved ones to engage in conversation starters such as “’When did you first start feeling like this?’ ‘Do you feel like your drug use/drinking is a problem?’ ‘What can I do to best support you right now?’” It also states, “Understand that your loved one may not be ready to seek help for their substance use. What’s most important is to listen and respond in a gentle manner, using encouraging and supportive words… When approaching a loved one, it’s important to frame the conversation from your own perspective, rather than confront with judgments or accusations about your loved one’s behavior. You can do this by using ‘I’ statements, such as ‘I’m worried about you.’”
The state will also allocate its grant funds towards all of the following:
“$4.5 million to distribute naloxone (brand name: Narcan) to high risk areas and populations; $4 million for medication to treat opioid addiction in emergency departments; $3 million for medication to treat opioid addiction in jails; $2 million for syringe replacement programs; $1.7 million for mobile care units; $1.25 million for loan repayment for providers beginning or expanding medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction (including mental health counselors working at addiction treatment centers); $410,000 for outreach to increase number of providers offering medications to treat opioid addiction; $235,000 for up-to-date data on Narcan use, which will make it easier to track high usage areas; $235,000 for start-up costs for new treatment services; and $200,000 for community engagement in minority communities.”