LANSING, Mich. (CBS DETROIT) -- Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order on Wednesday creating the Michigan Opioids Task Force, which will bring together leaders from across state government to tackle the opioid epidemic. Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive for the State of Michigan and chief deputy director for health for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, will serve as chair of the task force.
The task force will be charged with identifying the root causes of the opioid epidemic and implementing response actions to help Michiganders struggling with opioid addiction access the recovery services they need. The task force will also work to raise public awareness about the opioid epidemic and the resources available to those impacted by it.
"As governor, my number one priority is protecting our families and our overall public health," said Governor Whitmer. "Right now, Michigan is among the states with the highest levels of opioid prescriptions and overdose deaths, with 2,053 overdoses in 2017 alone. This task force will bring us one step closer to finally ending the opioid epidemic in Michigan and keeping families safe."
By convening the expertise of numerous state departments, the task force will bring all possible tools to bear and work across systems to meet individuals struggling with addiction where they are. Focuses include increasing access to medication assisted treatment, harm reduction, and specialized populations like pregnant women and returning citizens.
In particular, helping Michigan's returning citizens access the treatment they need will be a key priority for the task force. Individuals exiting emergency rooms after an overdose and jails after an arrest are at extremely high risk when they are released. The task force will work to build coordinated care between substance use disorder treatment provided across the system and warm handoffs to community based services.
"Too many families have been devastated by the opioid epidemic in Michigan," said Dr. Khaldun. "If we're going to keep Michiganders safe and healthy, we must get to work addressing this crisis. The team at MDHHS is ready to work with all of our partners in state government to help Michiganders get on the road to recovery and prevent opioid addiction in the first place."
The Michigan Opioids Task Force will consist of Dr. Khaldun, Chief Justice Bridget McCormack or the chief justice's designee, and the directors or the directors' designees from the Departments of Health and Human Services, Attorney General; Licensing and Regulatory Affairs; Michigan State Police; Corrections; Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy; Insurance and Financial Services; Military and Veterans Affairs; Labor and Economic Opportunity; and Education.
Earlier this year, Governor Whitmer announced a $10 million partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies to help address the state's rising opioid overdose death rate. Additionally, in June, Governor Whitmer and the Michigan Opioid Partnership announced $5 million in grants to Beaumont Hospital in Southeast Michigan, Munson Medical Center in Northern Lower Michigan, and Wayne State University Center for Behavioral Health and Justice to help people who need treatment for opioid addiction get on a path to successful recovery.
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