The county moved with urgency to direct opioid settlement funds to help addicts. But subsequent disagreement highlights a tension between law enforcement and treatment that will likely be repeated statewide.
Local officials say there are ‘sharks in the water,’ as companies pitching everything from $7,400 vending machines to $200,000 body scanners seek contracts from the opioid settlement money coming to Michigan.
Michigan is receiving about $1.5 billion over 18 years, with about $725 million going to cities and counties. Some will receive a larger share of opioid settlement, based on how hard they’ve been hit by the crisis.
A landmark lawsuit settlement will pour $1.5 billion into Michigan, almost half of it directly to communities. But local governments have been slow to spend the money, and transparency questions dog efforts to fight the drug scourge.
The state spent $148,000 on a racial equity group to offer advice on how to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in opioid settlement funds. But after issuing recommendations, the group said it was ‘silenced.’
Even as the state posted at least some details on a new website Wednesday about where settlement money is going, the chair of the Michigan Opioid Advisory Commission told lawmakers that the panel has struggled to get more detailed information from state health officials.
Access to the drug should increase in coming days after thousands of kits are shipped. Michigan has allowed over-the-counter sales since 2017, but not all pharmacies carried the drug that reverses overdoses.
Fentanyl test strips can help prevent overdoses by alerting users to the presence of the synthetic opioid. The state should push for federal money to supply local health offices with test strips and help save lives.
Doctors and substance abuse experts said a federal policy shift could make the drug, now available in pharmacies, far more convenient to buy at convenience stores, gas stations or from online retailers. But will it still be affordable?
The rate of opioid overdose deaths doubled among Black residents over a recent five-year period. Suicide rates jumped 88 percent. Advocates say isolation, treatment disparities and the ubiquity of fentanyl in street drugs are behind the increases.