Michigan opioid settlement funds will provide ‘welcome relief,’ leaders say

By: - April 26, 2022 10:17 am

Detroit Recovery Project office on East McNichols Road in Detroit | Ken Coleman photo

Andre Johnson, who leads a noted drug recovery program in Detroit, says that a historic opioid settlement and the funding that organizations like his that are poised to provide much needed resources “is a monumental opportunity for Michiganders to change the landscape for our citizens that have suffered significantly from opioid use disorders.”

“We need all hands on deck. It has taken more lives than COVID-19. This is an epidemic that providers often feel like we are on an island by ourselves given the stigmatization and pink elephant in the room syndrome,” said Johnson, president and CEO of the Detroit Recovery Project. 

Bipartisan bills passed by the Michigan Senate on Thursday creating a structure to distribute the state’s $800 million share of the $26 billion national opioid settlement over the next several years.

Andre Johnson photo

“The opioid settlement is a monumental opportunity for Michiganders to change the landscape for our citizens that have suffered significantly from opioid use disorders,” Johnson said. “With an increase of financial resources in our community, they can assist providers that are currently ‘boots on the ground.’ There has been a growing need to expand an array of outreach endeavors, ensuring that those who need medicated assisted treatment have full access, and ultimately reduce overdose deaths, and HIV and Hepatitis C diseases particularly for individuals that are using syringes.”

Senate Bills 993, 994 and 995 sponsored by state Sens. Michael MacDonald (R-Macomb Twp.), Mark Huizenga (R-Walker) and Betty Jean Alexander (D-Detroit), respectively, would create the Michigan Opioid Healing and Recovery Fund within the Department of Treasury, which would direct all settlement proceeds to be deposited.

“There is no amount of money that can fill the void left by a loved one, but with the investments we can make thanks to this historic settlement, we can ensure Michiganders facing substance use disorder have the support and resources they need to get better,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement. “This legislation means Michigan families impacted by the devastating opioid epidemic will get some semblance of relief. These funds will bring millions of dollars to treat opioid use disorder, and support our neighbors, family, and friends in treatment and recovery.”

On Oct. 12, 2017, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans and former Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson announced a plan to file a  lawsuit against multiple drug manufacturers and distributors alleging the deceptive marketing and sale of opioids. As a result, Wayne County will receive an allocated $35 million share of the settlement, Evans said.

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans and Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter attended the TCF Center announcement | Ken Coleman

“This will provide welcome relief to thousands in our state, and it is relief that may never have materialized were it not for the extraordinary cooperative efforts exhibited by the leadership of both Wayne and Oakland Counties to attack a devastating problem that is traumatizing both communities as well as much of the rest of the country,” said Evans in a statement.

“The opioid industry has taken a page out of big tobacco’s playbook,” said Patterson at the time. “They utilized misleading information, marketing campaigns, and studies to convince the public that their product was safe. They put profits over people and now people are paying the price, some with their lives.”

Patterson died in 2019. An email and call to Oakland County Executive David Coulter’s press office was not returned.

Wayne County plans to distribute the resources in several areas including treatment, training and education, and prevention funds.

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.