Michigan awarded $10M from Bloomberg charity to fight opioid overdose deaths

The generic prescription pain medication Buprenorphine is seen in a pharmacy on February 4, 2014 in Boca Raton, Florida. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Bloomberg Philanthropies will grant Michigan $10 million to combat opioid overdose deaths as part of its $50 million initiative.

Michigan, which ranks eighth in the nation for the number of overdose deaths, is the second state to receive funding after neighboring Pennsylvania.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at the Detroit Regional Chamber 2019 Conference | Ken Coleman

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office made the announcement early Thursday morning ahead of a joint press conference with former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, the charity’s founder, in Eastpointe in the afternoon. The grant will be used to speed up access to treatment and improve prevention efforts.

“The opioid crisis is a national emergency that calls for bold leadership and big ideas. Governor Whitmer is committed to reversing the epidemic, and our goal is to support her administration with resources and expertise that can help them save more lives,” said Bloomberg, who also serves as World Health Organization Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases.

“We hope our work in places like Michigan and Pennsylvania spares more families the heartbreak of losing a loved one to opioid addiction or overdose. And by showing that progress is possible, we can create a model for action that other states and organizations can follow.”

Bloomberg is a corporate titan with a news service bearing his name. As of 2019, Forbes estimates his net worth at $55.4 billion, making him the ninth-richest person in the United States.

Mike Bloomberg

He was elected New York mayor in 2001 as a Republican and later switched his affiliation to independent. Bloomberg had been mentioned as a possible independent presidential hopeful in the 2008, 2012 and 2016 elections. in 2014, he launched a $50 million gun control initiative. He has backed several candidates for state and federal office, including GOP former Gov. Rick Snyder, holding a New York fundraiser for him in 2014.

Bloomberg registered as a Democrat in 2018 amid rumors he would run for president in 2020, but he announced this month that he would not seek the nomination.

Michigan had 2,694 drug overdose deaths in 2017, compared to 2,335 in 2016 — a 14 percent increase, according to the state of Michigan. Opioids were responsible for more than three-quarters of those drug overdose deaths.

“The opioid epidemic is one of the greatest health crises of our lifetime, and we need to marshal all forces necessary to fight back,” said Whitmer. “The opioid crisis affects nearly every county in Michigan. These funds will help our state advance a comprehensive plan and implement critical interventions that can make the biggest impact to reduce overdose deaths.”

The $10 million will beef up work already underway in Michigan to address the opioid crisis, the foundation said. Projects may include expanding medications for opioid use disorder in settings including prisons and jails, expanding distribution of naloxone and enhancing systems to improve timely collection of data to help speed response to the crisis.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that there were more than 70,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2017, including more than 47,000 from opioid overdoses. These are the highest numbers on record.

Today, more than 2 million people in the United States are addicted to opioids, which are responsible for about 130 deaths in America every day. By comparison, there are approximately 102 deaths in America per day from car crashes.

Prescription pain pills are seen dumped out on a table at Grissom Air Reserve Base, Ind. | U.S. Air Force photo, Tech. Sgt. Mark R. W. Orders-Woempner, Wikimedia Commons

“We must confront this epidemic from multiple fronts, working hand-in-hand across the government, philanthropic, and private sectors,” said Dr. Judith Monroe, president and CEO of the CDC Foundation. “This crisis is too large and too vast for us to try any other way. To reduce the number of deaths from opioid overdose, we need to leverage our collective strengths.”

Bloomberg Philanthropies will work with its partners — Vital Strategies, the Pew Charitable Trusts, Johns Hopkins University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the CDC Foundation — in up to 10 states over the next three years.

In 2018, Bloomberg Philanthropies said it distributed $767 million for various projects in the United States and abroad.

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Susan J. Demas is an 18-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 3,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 60 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.

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