Licensed addiction provider wonders if new partnership to fight opioid deaths will go far enough

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BAY CITY, Michigan (WJRT) - (12/12/2018) - The Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan announced a new partnership between the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and key funders has formed to focus efforts on Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT) in hospital emergency rooms.

The goal is to decrease opioid overdoses and deaths.

In 2017, drug overdoses killed nearly 2,700 people in Michigan, 70% of those deaths were attributed to opioids according to the MDHHS.

Wednesday night, we met with a doctor who is a licensed addiction provider to get his reaction to this new 2-year pilot project.

Dr. William Morrone at Recovery Pathways in Bay City said efforts to address addiction in the ER are about four to five years overdue.

"If you go to an ER and have bronchitis you will get a steroid and an antibiotic to breathe better," Morrone stated as an example.

"We have not had an emergency department aggressively address that patient's addiction right there," he added.

When we asked Morrone why that matters he said, "You overdose and you go there and withdraw and they don't treat that, who is the first person you're going to call when you walk out the door? Your dealer."

Morrone added the highest risk for an overdose death in substance use disorder are people coming out of a non-fatal overdose.

That's why he believes providing Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) at that initial point-of-contact, in the ER, and referring the patient for follow up care is so important.

Recovery Coach Kyle Hanshaw said he considers himself lucky to be alive.

He was placed on a month-long waiting list for treatment, and he lived to see his appointment date on July 8th of 2013:

"I know for a fact without Suboxone I would most likely not be here today," he told us after leading a session for those in recovery on Wednesday night.

The father of three says there's still a stigma attached to Medication Assisted Treatment, a mindset that he says needs to change in order to save lives:

"Any tool that can help you stay alive and help me stay alive and be there for my kids is worth having," Hanshaw said, "If there's breath, there's hope, and I have breath today."

His fiancee just gave birth to their third child on Monday. Hanshaw has been in recovery for five and a half years and now coaches others.

Wednesday night we spoke with the Senior Program Officer for the pilot project at the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan, Sarah Wedepohl.

She said they have 2.6 million dollars in grantmoney available for emergency rooms in hospitals in Michigan that have the highest need.

We will not find out until January if any Mid Michigan hospitals will receive funding for this effort.

It is up to individual hospitals to apply for the grants in order to participate in the pilot.