Center for Behavioral Health and Justice convenes hundreds of community partners for inaugural Opioid Treatment Ecosystem Summit

The Wayne State University School of Social Work Center for Behavioral Health and Justice (CBHJ) presented the first ever Opioid Treatment Ecosystem Community of Practice Summit on May 5th, 2020. Over 360 people attended this inaugural event, representing corrections and law enforcement agencies, behavioral health and medical providers, State of Michigan partners, philanthropic organizations, social workers, and individuals who have been directly impacted by the overdose crisis.

Support from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund has made it possible for the CBHJ to host the summit and convene county-level Change Teams, which feed into a larger, statewide Community of Practice focused on enhancing the Opioid Treatment Ecosystem. Through this framework, the CBHJ serves as an external facilitator to provide technical assistance, support, and shared learning opportunities including the Summit.

To begin the summit, CBHJ Director Brad Ray detailed the four waves of the overdose crisis both nationally and in Michigan, and the ways in which “jail emerges as a salient touchpoint where we have an opportunity to intervene”. Ray shared the best-practice models developed by the CBHJ to strengthen substance use disorder treatment at the intersection of criminal/legal systems. These models include Medications for Opioid Use Disorder in Jail (MOUD) and Proactive Response to Overdose and Appropriate Connections to Treatment (PROACT).

While the opioid epidemic has been occurring for over a decade, it has been compounded by the current COVID-19 crisis, forming a syndemic. Correctional facilities are “at the epicenter” of this syndemic, Ray explains. They have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and jails regularly come in contact with individuals who have substance use disorders. Studies suggest that individuals leaving jail are 129 times more likely to die of an overdose, and recent CBHJ data indicates that overdose deaths are increasing by as much as 40% as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, the trailblazing work of the OTE communities is more important now than ever.  

As the summit continued, attendees heard from the six OTE counties that have partnered with the CBHJ to implement MOUD and PROACT initiatives through their local Change Teams: Kent, Jackson, Monroe, Muskegon, Washtenaw, and Wayne. Each county representative provided an overview of the work they are doing to ensure continuity of behavioral health care and expanded access to treatment for opioid and other substance use disorders, both in the county jail and continued treatment following transition into the community. Cross-systems collaboration among first responders, law enforcement, behavioral health, medical providers, and other community partners was repeatedly shared as a facilitator of implementation success.

A second Opioid Treatment Ecosystem Community of Practice Summit is being planned for this Fall. To ensure the safety of community partners and attendees, the decision to host the next event virtually or in-person will be based on community health guidelines. Join our mailing list to receive updates from OTE and the other initiatives of the CBHJ.

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