The U.S. Department of Labor announced Monday that it would award Michigan more than $1.8 million in federal grant money to combat the “workforce impacts” of the nation’s opioid epidemic.
The “Dislocated Worker Grant,” part of a program created under 2014’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, will “provide eligible grant participants with disaster-relief employment as peer recovery coaches in a community recovery organization combating the effects of the crisis,” according to the department.
The grant is for Macomb County and $800,000 will be released initially.
It will also “provide employment services to eligible participants seeking careers in healthcare professions related to addiction, treatment, prevention, and pain management.”
Michigan was most recently awarded another such grant in October 2018 to assist workers in the flailing retail and banking industries. Because the Trump administration declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency in 2017, this particular grant qualifies as “disaster relief,” which allowed the state to request it directly.
According to a 2016 study by MLive, in that year there were 11 million opioid prescriptions written, roughly one for every Michigander. Prescription rates were particularly high in the state’s more rural northern counties.
In 2017, there were slightly more than 2,000 overdose deaths involving opioids in Michigan, the highest number on record.
Last month, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s philanthropic group awarded Michigan $10 million to combat such deaths as part of a nationwide initiative. He made the announcement along with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in Macomb County.
The Advance reported at the time that Bloomberg’s grant could potentially be used for “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.”