Hand-in-Hand: Wayne State SURT Teams partners with area organizations to stem Michigan’s overdose crisis

Since 2000, Michigan’s opioid overdose deaths have grown ten-fold and in 2018 drug overdose deaths even exceeded the number of car crashes in the mitten state (State of Michigan, 2022). In an effort to save the lives of Michigander’s, the Substance Use Research Team (SURT) housed in the Wayne State University School of Social Work has partnered with community organizations and first responders to change the landscape of Michigan’s overdose crisis prevention and response methods.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has distributed 13 grants totaling 11 million dollars to reduce the number of prescription drug/opioid overdose-related deaths and adverse events by training first responders and other key community groups. A portion of these funds will be allocated to Grants to Prevent Prescription Drug/Opioid Overdose-Related Deaths (PDO). The Prevention Network, an organization that bridges the gap between research and practice for enhanced effectiveness of local prevention efforts, has been contracted to PDO issue mini-grants to agencies within Wayne, Genesee and Calhoun counties. These mini-grants will fund training for community organizations and first responders to prevent prescription drug/opioid overdose-related deaths. In addition, first responders will be exposed to secondary prevention strategies, including the purchase and distribution of naloxone, a medication to prevent overdose by opioids. Organizations selected as part of the mini-grant program will conduct opioid education and naloxone distribution, provide referrals to substance use disorder services with follow-up, identify hot spot areas to place a community naloxone box, and utilize and promote the OpiRescue application for near real time collection of naloxone administration. 

The School of Social Work has been on the forefront of addressing Michigan’s opioid crisis and the SURT Team is continuing our commitment to partnering with community members and organizations on research that strengthens the capacity of communities to address current and future challenges. Conceived in 2016, the SURT Team is comprised of several members from Wayne State including Social Work Associate Professor and Coordinator of the Certificate in Alcohol and Drug Abuse Studies Stella Resko, Center for Social Work Research Associate Director for Research Administration Elizabeth Agius, Social Work Evaluation Project Manager Paula Callen, Social Work Evaluation Project Manager Danielle Hicks, Social Work Evaluation Project Manager Rachel Kollin, and Social Work Evaluation Project Manager Brooke Rodriguez. Since its inception, the SURT Team has worked hand-in-hand with our community on projects addressing youth substance use prevention and treatment through SAMHSA funded grants. More recently the team has taken on projects aimed at addressing opioid overdoses and high-risk populations experiencing SUDs including pregnant and parenting mothers.

The Michigan System for Opioid Surveillance reported there were 2,523 suspected fatal overdoses from Jan 1, 2020 – Feb 23, 2021. The strategies outlined in our PDO grant plan includes funding community agencies who work closely with those in need of life-saving naloxone, and the implementation of the first naloxone distribution tracking application in the state. The state is working diligently to provide resources to communities to fight the overdose crisis and we are pleased to support this work. This grant continues our collaboration with OROSC to track progress, gather outcomes and comply with federal reporting requirements. - Elizabeth Agius, Principal Investigator

In partnership with the State of Michigan’s Office of Recovery Oriented Systems of Care (OROSC), the SURT Team will conduct the evaluation of the PDO mini-grants. Led by Principal Investigator Elizabeth Agius with assistance from Project Manager Brook Rodriguez, the SURT Team will conduct an environmental scan and needs assessment of each targeted county to assess capacity and activities related to prescription drug overdose prevention. Evaluation measures include data collection, evaluation, quarterly progress report submission, quality improvement review, and an assessment of community activities. Additionally, Agius and Rodriguez will assist in identifying the technical assistance and training needs of community providers. In partnership with OROSC and Prevention Network, annual site visits with each mini-grant recipient will be completed to assure project progress and fidelity to evidence-based strategies are being implemented.  

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for the 12-month period ending December 2020, there were 92,183 reported fatal overdoses. The need for action against the opioid epidemic is critical, this is the first time the state of Michigan has received PDO grant funding. Collaborating with OROSC and Prevention Network to target high need communities for education and training related to overdose is a project we are so excited to be a part of. Our team takes a hands-on approach to evaluation in which we develop strong working relationships with our grantees.  I look forward to being a part of this prevention grant.  - Brooke Rodriguez, Evaluation Project Manager

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