Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announces a $10 million investment from Bloomberg Philanthropies March 14 to fight the opioid crisis in Michigan. Whitmer and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made the announcement at the Eastpointe Fire Department.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announces a $10 million investment from Bloomberg Philanthropies March 14 to fight the opioid crisis in Michigan. Whitmer and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made the announcement at the Eastpointe Fire Department.

Photo by Sarah Purlee


Whitmer, Bloomberg visit Eastpointe to announce $10 million investment to fight opioid crisis

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published March 14, 2019

 Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks in Eastpointe about the $10 million investment from Bloomberg Philanthropies to help Michigan address the opioid crisis.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks in Eastpointe about the $10 million investment from Bloomberg Philanthropies to help Michigan address the opioid crisis.

Photo by Sarah Purlee

 Local first responders listen to the announcement.

Local first responders listen to the announcement.

Photo by Sarah Purlee

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EASTPOINTE — In Eastpointe March 14, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg formally announced a $10 million investment in Michigan from Bloomberg’s Bloomberg Philanthropies foundation to combat the opioid crisis.

The announcement was made at the Eastpointe Fire Department. The site was chosen due to Eastpointe's and Macomb County’s significant number of opioid cases in recent years.

The investment is part of a larger $50 million initiative from Bloomberg Philanthropies that will be distributed to 10 of the worst-hit states across the United States to address the crisis.

Both the governor and former mayor stressed the scale of the issue in Michigan and throughout the country.

“Overdose deaths in Michigan have jumped 54 percent in just one year from 2015 to 2016,” Whitmer said. “In 2016, Michigan had more opioid prescriptions than we have people in our state. That is enough that every citizen in Michigan would have been given 84 opioid pills. Michigan ranks eighth in the United States for the number of overdose deaths, with 2,694 cases in 2017 alone. We cannot wait; we’ve got to get to work now.”

Bloomberg said the time has long since passed to continue treating the opioid crisis as a criminal matter and that it needs to be treated as a national emergency.

“In America, a life is lost to opioids every 11 minutes,” he said. “Five lives are lost every hour. If that isn’t a crisis, I don’t know what is. Unfortunately, our national leaders are not addressing this with the urgency it needs to be.”

Bloomberg said his hope is that state-level initiatives can lead the way in combating the increasing numbers of addictions and deaths produced by the crisis.

“States are already leading the way in a way the federal government hasn’t — coming up with practical solutions and passing legislation that is saving lives,” he said. “States do need support — and foundations can provide it — which is why Bloomberg Philanthropies is announcing this plan to help the states hit hardest by the opioid epidemic. Our goal is to provide the resources and expertise to develop and implement a comprehensive plan to stop this crisis in its tracks.”

The funds will be processed through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which will take point on leading the new initiative.

“This partnership is going to allow that every Michigander has the opportunity to learn about the dangers of opioid abuse,” Whitmer said. “When we raise awareness, we can break down the stigma of addiction and create a safe space for those suffering from addiction to seek help.”

Local officials agreed that proactive steps are needed in regard to opioid addiction. Eastpointe Deputy Fire Chief Nick Sage said the very landscape of what his firefighters and paramedics have to respond to on a daily basis has shifted due to the extent of the problem.

“The opioid epidemic has hit Macomb County hard,” Sage said. “We respond to overdoses more than structure fires. We understand this struggle and are proud to join efforts to help turn the tide.”

Bloomberg said Michigan was selected because of the scale of the problem in the state and because Whitmer has made addressing the crisis a priority.

“One of the main reasons (we decided to select Michigan) is we have a new governor in Michigan who is very competent and who everyone told me I would want to work with,” Bloomberg said. “Gov. Whitmer is someone who wants to address the issue and is already involved in this cause.”

While many of the specifics of how the money will be used have not been determined yet, Whitmer said the funding will be used to find what practices are most effective in combating overdoses and addiction, and then strengthening those programs.

“We want to bring in important voices, whether it’s first responders, experts or those going through the cycle of addiction, to develop best practices,” said Whitmer.

“Pennsylvania has been doing this a few months, Michigan will learn from what works in Pennsylvania, and the next eight states selected will be able to learn from them,” added Bloomberg. “The idea is to create a process that the rest of the country can emulate.”

Whitmer said much has been learned from other places, including Pennsylvania, where Bloomberg Philanthropies donated the first portion of the $50 million investment in November.

“This will allow (those suffering from addiction) access to things like counselling, mentoring, job treatment and access to addiction networks,” said Whitmer. “This will allow them to get them back on their feet and provide support for their families, and it will help us save lives everywhere from Detroit to the Upper Peninsula and everywhere in between.”

Sage agreed that the most effective use of additional money will be to stop overdoses at the source: preventing and treating addiction.

“The opioid epidemic is very prevalent in many communities, and Eastpointe is one of them,” said Sage. “We’re excited to have more resources available to address the problem here. … I don’t think (the funding) will be needed to retrain (firefighters and paramedics). I think the most productive use will be in the treatment phase and breaking the cycle of addiction.”

Whitmer and Bloomberg both said the problem is harrowing, but that they believe a solution can be found.

“If we succeed here in Michigan and in Pennsylvania, we think we can create a blueprint for addressing this epidemic across America,” said Bloomberg. “We owe it to everyone who has lost a loved one to this plague to do more, and we will.”

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