The opioid crisis is a public health emergency affecting people across the United States—a crisis many years in the making, with multifaceted root causes. Michiganders are not immune to its reach. The Michigan Overdose Prevention Coalition is taking on the crisis through collaborative action, thoughtful policy changes to ensure harm reduction, and grassroots advocacy.
Together, we can reduce overdose fatalities in Michigan.
What is harm reduction?
Challenging perceptions and unraveling stigma
Challenging perceptions and unraveling stigma
Public spaces like these use a series of harm reduction tactics—normal, everyday measures that we take to protect ourselves from negative impacts. We participate in different forms of harm reduction almost every day, like wearing helmets and life vests, applying sunscreen, or carrying first aid kits. At its core, harm reduction keeps us safe and alive.
But when harm reduction is applied in the context of substance use, things change. Perceptions get clouded. Stigma gets introduced. Damaging stereotypes get applied and a mindset settles in that those who use drugs are undeserving of basic protections, dignity, and respect.
Imagine yourself here.
The Michigan Overdose Prevention Coalition aims to change that narrative by combating these harmful stereotypes, building acceptance and understanding of harm reduction among the public, educating policymakers, engaging the local community, and advocating for effective policy changes that save lives.
Harm reduction is a public health approach that aims to reduce the negative impacts of substance use. This includes linking people to life-sustaining health services, enabling access to naloxone—medicine that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose—and making public health equipment like sterile syringes available through syringe service programs (SSPs) to prevent the spread of HIV and viral hepatitis. Harm reduction is about meeting people where they are with compassion and support.
What is a syringe service program?
A syringe service program is a community-based prevention program that connects people who use substances with comprehensive care and resources, including:
- Referrals to treatment programs and mental health services
- HIV and hepatitis C testing and linkage to care
- Training in overdose prevention and response with naloxone
- Basic wound care, sterile syringes, recovery coaching, and linkage to substance use disorder treatment
- Safe disposal of used syringes and access to sterile syringes and injection equipment
Think you know SSPs?
Research has shown that SSPs play a critical role in saving lives and preventing overdoses. However, they are often misunderstood by the public.
Our communities and our neighbors need SSPs.
Eleven counties in Michigan’s northern Lower Peninsula have been identified as having an elevated risk of an injection-fueled HIV outbreak by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) identified 14 additional vulnerable counties. By expanding SSPs statewide, counties can provide more resources and encourage safer, healthier communities.
SSPs effectively protect individuals and their communities from harm.
SSPs are associated with an estimated 50 percent reduction in HIV and hepatitis C (HCV) incidence. When combined with medications that treat opioid dependence (also known as medication-assisted treatment), HCV and HIV transmission is reduced by over two-thirds. SSP participants are five times more likely to enter treatment programs than those who do not seek SSP services.
Additionally, studies of cities that have implemented syringe access programs found no corresponding increase in crime. Because SSPs facilitate the safe disposal of used syringes, this reduces accidental needlesticks among law enforcement by 66 percent.
SSPs save lives and millions of taxpayer dollars.
Life is priceless. The cost of one new syringe is $1. The average lifetime cost of treating one person with HIV is almost $450,000. Healthcare costs in Michigan associated with skin, soft tissue, and vascular infections from substance use are estimated at more than $400 million per year.
Syringe service programs in Michigan
By expanding SSPs statewide, districts will have more resources for users and will encourage safer and cleaner communities. These maps show the SSP locations in Michigan by county and congressional districts.
What Is Naloxone?
Naloxone—also known as Narcan®—is a safe medication designed to rapidly reverse the effects of opioid overdoses and prevent fatalities. In 2020, Michigan SSPs saved at least 2,000 lives with naloxone.
Think You Know Naloxone?
While naloxone is proven to be an effective tool in preventing opioid-related deaths, there are many misconceptions about this lifesaving medication.
Nationwide, more than 80 percent of overdose reversals with naloxone were carried out by other substance users.
Naloxone’s availability does not encourage drug use.
Expanded access to naloxone means fewer preventable deaths and more lives saved. Passed in 2022, Public Act 176 of 2022 enables the MDHHS chief medical executive to expand access to naloxone and allows for the distribution of naloxone by community-based organizations under the statewide standing order, protecting them from liability.
Naloxone poses no risk of harm.
Naloxone is a safe medication used by medical professionals and first responders of all types to prevent opioid overdose deaths. It carries no risk of abuse and has no effect on people who do not already have opioids in their systems.
Naloxone enables a faster first response when and where it’s needed.
Nationwide, more than 80 percent of overdose reversals with naloxone were carried out by other substance users. By equipping and training the people most likely to witness an overdose how to respond, more lives can be saved in seconds.