CADILLAC — The city of Cadillac has been identified as one of the rural areas in Michigan most in need of opioid overdose intervention services.
To address that need, Harm Reduction Michigan is gearing up to open the doors of a free naloxone distribution center on Mitchell Street; naloxone is the generic name of a drug that reverses the effects of opioid overdose.
Pam Lynch, director of Harm Reduction Michigan, said a number of people from Cadillac reached out to them for help in response to mounting overdose deaths.
“They said, ‘help us save our town,’‘ Lynch said. “It is shameful that so many people are dying unnecessarily from this overdose crisis. People who struggle with drugs need support and compassion, not stigma and criminalization. We are determined to get lifesaving naloxone to the people who need it.‘
Harm Reduction Michigan has secured a space at 850 North Mitchell St., Suite B, and will be establishing regular, part-time hours of operation within the next couple of weeks.
Lynch said establishing regular hours is essential to their organization, as it builds trust among the people who may be interested in seeking help.
“You have to be there when you say you’ll be there,‘ Lynch said.
Harm Reduction Michigan is partnering with Vital Strategies to operate naloxone distribution centers throughout the state.
Vital Strategies — a global health organization that works with governments and civil society in 73 countries to design and implement strategies that tackle pressing public health problems — recently announced a $10 million commitment to Michigan to strengthen the state’s ability to respond to the crisis of overdose.
According to a Vital Strategies press release, this effort is at the forefront of a national trend to adopt health-focused, harm reduction strategies and move away from punitive responses to substance use. It is part of a three-year, $50 million investment from Bloomberg Philanthropies to help hard-hit states reduce overdose deaths.
Expanding naloxone distribution to rural areas statewide will be just one of the initiatives funded by the investment.
Others include expanded access to methadone and buprenorphine in state prisons; expanded syringe service programs; engaging people who use drugs through community building and training; increasing data capacity to drive local overdose responses; and creating media and communication campaigns to address racial disparities, reduce stigma and criminalization, and increase support for harm reduction services such as methadone and buprenorphine, naloxone, and syringe access services.
Lynch said their initial focus in Cadillac will be free naloxone distribution and helping people access resources for recovery.
Based on studies conducted where naloxone distribution programs were implemented, such as Boston, Massachusetts, Lynch said it has been shown that overdose deaths decrease drastically when naloxone availability reaches the point of “saturation.‘
“Every home should have one kit or more,‘ Lynch said. “We’ve seen proven outcomes in other areas of the country. Opioid addiction doesn’t discriminate ... it doesn’t choose just one group of people. I think that’s one of the reasons we were blindsided by it. I’m excited that the Cadillac community is interested in helping people and advancing new ideas that might make a difference in the long run.‘
Keep reading the Cadillac News for further coverage on how the $10 million from Vital Strategies will be put to use in the Cadillac area to address the opioid addiction epidemic.