Whitmer creates opiods task force

    Oxycodone pain pills prescribed for a patient with chronic pain. | John Moore/Getty Images

    Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed executive order 2019-18 creating the Michigan Opioids Task Force with Michigan Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun as chair.

    Joneigh Khaldun

    The opioid epidemic has ravaged the country and Michigan is no exception. As the Advance has reported, northern Michigan has been particularly hard hit. Data from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) shows that from 2006 to 2012, Ogemaw County saw an influx of 125.7 pills per person, per year, the most in the state.

    Whitmer said the task force will raise public awareness, identify the root causes of the opioid epidemic and implement response actions to help Michiganders struggling with addiction access services to overcome it.

    The other members will be: 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.

    Opioids flooded into Ogemaw, other northern counties, as epidemic tore across Michigan


    “Too many families have been devastated by the opioid epidemic in Michigan,” said 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.”

    In March, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced Michigan would receive a $10 million to combat opioid overdose deaths. Whitmer and the Michigan Opioid Partnership in June announced $5 million in grants to fight the opioid crisis to Beaumont Hospital in Southeast Michigan, Munson Medical Center in northern Lower Michigan and Wayne State University Center for Behavioral Health and Justice.

    “As governor, my No. 1 priority is protecting our families and our overall public health,” said 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.”

    Nessel joins AG group pushing for federal opioid changes

    Attorney General Dana Nessel, who is part of a group of attorneys general pushing for the federal government to ease state regulations they say harm people trying to get treatment, praised Whitmer for forming the task force.

    “The opioids epidemic has far-reaching implications on Michiganders, our communities and our economy. I applaud Gov. Whitmer for taking a proactive and comprehensive approach to combating this epidemic by creating a task force that gets at the root of this systemic public health crisis,” Nessel said. “Michigan wins when we all work together to tackle challenges and my office stands ready to support the Governor’s efforts and play an active role in this task force.”

    Susan J. Demas is a 19-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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