Michigan’s Drug Problem and What a New Grant Could Do to Stem the Tide of Addiction

Michigan city

Throughout our history, the individual states of the United States of America have gone through their ups and downs. Sometimes these issues have mirrored what was going on in the country at large, and sometimes they were unique to the state.

For Michigan, this state has experienced hardship both as a result of individual crisis within the state and as a result of the overall economic recession that struck the nation in 2008, known as the “Great Recession.” The result? Joblessness. And what happens to a geographic area when jobs disappear, only to be replaced with poverty? Spirits plummet and depression, anxiety, and hard times set in.

And shortly after that, the sly, covetous neighbor of addiction and drug use moves in next door.

Michigan’s Drug Crisis

Michigan was one of the states most harshly affected by the Great Recession of 2008. But the state had been losing jobs since the turn of the century due to a monopoly implosion on the auto industry. Michigan’s auto industry had been the powerhouse of this state’s economy. When that powerhouse started to lose energy due to competition, outsourcing, reduced demand, and other factors, the economy began to falter as early as 2000.

2008 arrived to find Michigan already struggling. And even in the years following the recession when Michigan had begun to recover, the state was still hundreds of thousands of jobs below the mark of where the state was at just before the turn of the century. The Detroit Free Press has a full piece on the economic situation in Michigan.

What followed from nearly a decade of an economic crisis was a surge in drug use. Starting in 1999 and moving through to the present day, Michigan has almost always had drug overdose deaths either consistent with the national average or higher than the national average. The state also has higher-than-average incidences of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, drug-related HIV, and inhalant use among adolescents. In other areas of drug use, such as youth cocaine use, or youth marijuana use, Michigan residents are very near the national average.

A Bloomberg Grant Slated to Create Powerful Change in Michigan

Michael Bloomberg speaking
Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies

Since Michigan had been economically strapped throughout most of the 2000s, access to funding for creating treatment options for struggling addicts was quite rare. So when the Bloomberg Philanthropies group announced a $10 million grant to help the state fight its opioid crisis, this was good news all around.

Michigan is not the only state that the Bloomberg Philanthropies group hopes to help. The organization put together $50 million in funding and plans to disperse it to states which have struggled the most with the opioid crisis.

“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.”

Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies, stated: “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.”

Michigan had the eighth-highest number of opioid-related drug overdoses in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In fact, their death toll jumped more than 14 percent in just one year, from 2,335 deaths in 2016 to 2,694 deaths in 2017.

According to Michigan’s new Governor, Mrs. Gretchen Whitmer, “The opioid epidemic is one of the greatest health crises of our lifetime, and we need to marshal all forces necessary to fight back. 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.”

Details of the Grant

When I first heard about the grant, I admit I was skeptical. “Oh great,” I thought. “Another group who thinks we can fix the addiction crisis by throwing more money at it.” But then I did some more research. The grant is a functioning collaboration between Bloomberg Philanthropies, Vital Strategies, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the CDC, and Johns Hopkins University. So we have a healthy combination of a charitable organization, research and analysis groups, and medical groups all getting together to work on this project. Hopefully, that will bode well for the successes of whatever programs the grant puts together.

The groups will identify state-specific problems in Michigan. The goal is to assess the current gaps in Michigan’s addiction treatment scene and the state’s prevention programs. There was some talk about extending access to opioid-reversal drugs like naloxone and some discussion about improving data collection systems, too.

From where I stand, I hope they build more addiction treatment centers on Michigan soil.

The grant will undoubtedly do some good, but it won't solve the problem by itself. For Michigan to bounce back from 10 years of recession and almost 20 years of addiction crisis, everyone in the state is going to have to get together and work to reduce the prominence of drug use within their communities.

Addiction Treatment is the Answer

Rehab center practitioner with the patient.

I am looking forward to seeing what the $10 million grant will do for Michigan. From my view, I stand by my statement that the thing most lacking in this state is access to qualified addiction treatment. Michigan has a lot of people who struggle with addiction, but not a lot of treatment centers that can help those people.

Helping someone to overcome an addiction to opioids is not always easy or straightforward. But persistence is key. Never giving up on them is critical. Not taking no for an answer is vital. The health risks of drug use are dire. We have seen that in Michigan and other states merely by the high numbers of people who have died in these states.

The longer our loved ones use drugs, the higher the likelihood they will experience a severe health crisis or ailment. That’s why we have to do our best to help them, to guide them to seek addiction treatment as soon as possible. We can learn from what's going on in Michigan. We can learn that grants can help, but the only way we'll fix the opioid epidemic on a nationwide level is if we all roll up our sleeves and get to work.


Reviewed and Edited by Claire Pinelli ICAADC, CCS, LADC, RAS, MCAP



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.