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As crisis rages, Michigan speeds up opioid spending in new budget

Someone getting methadone. The photo is close up of a man's hands
Michigan drug treatment and recovery services will get a boost from state funds next year (Bridge file photo)
  • Michigan will spend $48 million from opioid settlement funds on addiction services next year 
  • The appropriation in the budget approved Thursday represents a big increase from past spending
  • One Michigander dies every four hours from an opioid-related overdose

Michigan lawmakers have approved $48.2 million to fight the opioid epidemic, more than doubling the amount the state’s health department had planned to spend in the coming budget year.

The funds will go to prevention, treatment and recovery services around the state, including $10 million to regional community mental health services and $2 million to Michigan’s federally recognized tribes.

The spending, included in the 2024-25 budget approved early Thursday, comes from settlements with opioid manufacturers and distributors who were deemed to be partly responsible for the explosion of opioids that now kill close to 3,000 Michiganders a year.

Outside view of the Saginaw Chippewa Behavioral Health Center in Mt. Pleasant. It's a brick building
Addiction services like the Saginaw Chippewa Behavioral Health Center in Mt. Pleasant could benefit from $2 million in state opioid settlement funds coming to Michigan’s tribes. (Bridge courtesy photo)

The appropriations mean the state has already spent, or has plans to spend, about 63% of the $123 million in settlement funds it received through the end of 2023, with more checks arriving over the course of 18 years. That’s a massive increase from the 23% that had been spent as of the end of 2023.

Chelsea Wuth, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said the funds "will help us implement the recommendations of the Opioid Task Force to improve prevention, harm reduction, treatment and recovery services and will continue our work to improve the lives and outcomes of vulnerable Michiganders and their families affected, making our state safer and more equitable for all."

All told, Michigan will receive about $1.6 billion, with about half going directly to counties, cities and townships, and the rest to the state, where officials can choose how to distribute.


State officials have been cautious to spend down the funds, arguing it was best to stretch out the resources over more years. That approach has been blasted by many drug treatment advocates in a series of articles in Bridge Michigan, warning that Michigan residents are dying at a pace of one every four hours while money for additional services sits in the bank. 


The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services proposed spending $23.2 million in settlement funds in the budget year that begins in October. The Legislature approved that spending, and tacked on an additional $25 million from the settlement funds.

Local governments, too, have been hesitant to spend the money quickly, as local policymakers try to decide the best use of funds. About half of the state’s counties have yet to spend a dime of their funds, according to a recent survey by the Michigan Association of Counties.

Included in the budget was $2 million for Michigan’s tribes. Earlier this month, Bridge wrote that the state had not shared settlement funds with the state’s tribes other than through competitive grants, despite the fact that, nationally, Native Americans have the highest overdose death rate among ethnicities. Several other states have distributed funds to their local tribes.

The budget, approved early Thursday, also spotlighted a priority of establishing more recovery housing, including, among other services, setting aside $3 million to help expand Andy’s Place.

A wide, three-story building. It has blue and white siding
A large recovery housing effort in Jackson, Andy’s Place, gets a $3 million boost in next year’s state budget. (Bridge file photo by Mark Bugnaski)

The Jackson-based recovery housing complex is more than a residential structure. Rather, Andy’s Place also provides peer recovery coaches who live onsite, community spaces for recovery meetings and office space for community organizations that can connect residents to jobs, mental health help and other services.

The state funds will “save lives,” by expanding the current 50-unit complex for single adults and families, adding another complex on the same site for pregnant residents, said Mike Hirst, whose son, Andy, died of an overdose. 

Mike Hirst is wearing a grey polo shirt and jeans. He is posing for a picture in front of a building
Mike Hirst, whose son died of a drug overdose, said state funding will expand Andy’s Place, recovery housing that provides a place to stay as well as wraparound recovery services. (Bridge file photo by Mark Bugnaski)

He called it a “big win” in addressing Michigan’s opioid crisis, building out opportunities for long-time recovery by “creating a safe, secure environment where everyone is working toward the same thing.

Lingering frustrations

But the larger state budget “disappointed” Dr. Cara Poland, chairperson of the Opioid Advisory Commission.

She and other members in recent months have been increasingly frustrated, saying the commission’s spending recommendations and questions have been repeatedly ignored.

The proposed budget fails to set aside money for a needs assessment, which would identify gaps in services across the state — a core responsibility of the commission, she said.


That breaks the 2022 state law that established the commission, charging it with conducting a needs assessment and using it to advise the legislature each year how best to spend the funds, Poland said.

Poland, a long-time addiction specialist who now helps oversee addiction training for other clinicians, said she and other commission members are considering an end to meeting, wondering – she said – “whether there is value to continuing to meet.”

The Opioid Task Force, established by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and housed within the state health department, also makes recommendations on spending.

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