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Bloomberg Invests $10 Million to Help Curb Opioid Deaths
Michigan Ag Connection - 03/15/2019

Bloomberg Philanthropies announced the next state in its groundbreaking $50 million initiative to combat the nationwide opioid crisis, providing $10 million in support to Michigan to help the state address its fast-rising opioid overdose death rate. Michigan joins Pennsylvania as the first two states selected for this initiative, which comes amid an alarming decline in U.S. life expectancy driven in large part by a massive increase in opioid use nationwide.

Michigan ranks eighth in the country in the number of overdose deaths. The state had 2,694 drug overdose deaths in 2017, compared to 2,335 in 2016--a 14 percent increase. Opioids were responsible for more than three-quarters of those drug overdose deaths.

The CDC reports that there were more than 70,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2017, including more than 47,000 from opioid overdoses. These are the highest numbers on record. Today, more than two million people in the United States are addicted to opioids, which are responsible for about 130 deaths in America every day; by comparison, there are approximately 102 deaths in America per day from car crashes.

"The opioid crisis is a national emergency that calls for bold leadership and big ideas. Governor Whitmer is committed to reversing the epidemic, and our goal is to support her administration with resources and expertise that can help them save more lives," said Michael R. Bloomberg, Bloomberg Philanthropies Founder and World Health Organization Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases. "We hope our work in places like Michigan and Pennsylvania spares more families the heartbreak of losing a loved one to opioid addiction or overdose. And by showing that progress is possible, we can create a model for action that other states and organizations can follow."

Bloomberg Philanthropies will work with its partners--Vital Strategies, the Pew Charitable Trusts, Johns Hopkins University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the CDC Foundation--in up to 10 states over the next three years. The initiative will support high-impact, state-based interventions with a focus on identifying novel approaches to address gaps in current treatment and prevention programs. Bloomberg Philanthropies will help evaluate and prioritize interventions, with support tailored to specific state needs. Ultimately, the initiative will draw upon initial learnings to create replicable products and guidelines that can be used in other states, creating a model for the rest of the nation.

Bloomberg Philanthropies' investment will complement the work already underway in Michigan to address the opioid crisis. Projects may include 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.

"The opioid epidemic is one of the greatest health crises of our lifetime, and we need to marshal all forces necessary to fight back," said Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. "The opioid crisis affects nearly every county in Michigan. These funds will help our state advance a comprehensive plan and implement critical interventions that can make the biggest impact to reduce overdose deaths."

"We must confront this epidemic from multiple fronts, working hand-in-hand across the government, philanthropic, and private sectors," said Judith Monroe, MD, president and CEO of the CDC Foundation. "This crisis is too large and too vast for us to try any other way. To reduce the number of deaths from opioid overdose, we need to leverage our collective strengths."

"Overdose deaths are now the leading killer of Americans under 50. A bold effort is the required response," said Jose Luis Castro, President and CEO of Vital Strategies. "By partnering with Bloomberg Philanthropies, we will help equip states with effective ways to save lives and meet the unique needs and challenges of their communities."

"Implementing the most effective, evidenced-based approaches is critical to reversing the opioid epidemic, particularly in the hardest-hit states," said Allan Coukell, senior director of health programs at The Pew Charitable Trusts. "Bringing experts and health advocates together can help states develop best practices to make sure those who need treatment get it in the most timely fashion."

"We are grateful to have the chance to work with states and communities that are taking the lead in addressing the alarming spike in opioid overdose deaths," said Ellen J. MacKenzie, PhD, ScM, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor and dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "As we evaluate the efficacy of policies and programs designed to reverse the epidemic, we will identify opportunities for the replication of successful strategies across the country."

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