WMU Program Targets Opioid Crisis

Aug 26, 2019

Eddie Davis stands beside the gravestone of his son Jeremy who died from the abuse of opioids in July, 2019, in Coalton, Ohio
Credit John Minchillo / AP Photo

Western Michigan University has won a federal grant to help overdoses and deaths related to opioid drugs. The MY-PROUD program will put masters’ degree students from the College of Health and Human Services into schools and medical centers. Associate WMU social work professor Jennifer Harrison says they’ll help young people caught up in the opioid abuse epidemic.

"Where we have increasing rates of opioid use disorder and misuse of both prescription opioids as well as heroin and fentanyl, and then importantly an increase in our opioid-related deaths, which is really problematic in southwest Michigan as well as many other areas of the country."

Harrison says MY-PROUD, which stands for “Michigan Youth Prevention and Recovery from Opioid Youth Disorders,” will focus on Calhoun, Van Buren, Muskegon, and Jackson counties. They have the highest opioid-related death rates in the state, and the least access to mental and behavioral health services.

"In Calhoun County, they have the highest fentanyl-related overdose deaths in the state. And in Muskegon County last year it was estimated that there was one opioid use disorder overdose death each day."

Harrison says prevention is a major focus. "We're hoping that people don't develop opioid disorders, that they never start using opioids in a harmful way, or, if they do, that they recover early so that don't risk overdose and death."

But she says there's also an over-arching goal.

"We're hoping to be able to help be one of a number of services that helps bring down that opioid death rate. I think that's ultimately what a lot of these programs addressing opioids are really trying to do is just get ahead of the unacceptable rate of people dying related to opioid use disorders."

MY-PROUD will also offer free staff development training for schools and medical facilities in the four counties over the next three years.

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