White House Director of National Drug Control Policy Dr. Rahul Gupta meets with CBHJ staff, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed

Last week, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Director Dr. Rahul Gupta met with several staff members at the Center for Behavioral Health and Justice (CBHJ), School of Social Work Dean Sheryl Kubiak, and Wayne County Director of Health, Human & Veteran Services Dr. Abdul El-Sayed. The one-hour virtual meeting was requested by Dr. Gupta to learn more about the programs of the CBHJ, including the opioid treatment ecosystems, naloxone vending machine program, crisis response, and harm reduction efforts of the CBHJ.

Director Gupta identified naloxone distribution and carceral settings as top priorities of his office. “If we could get naloxone available at no cost to anyone who wants it across the United States, we could save tens of thousands of lives,” said Director Gupta. He recognized the work of the naloxone vending machines as distributing the life-saving medication to at-risk populations. Opioid Treatment Ecosystems initiative manger Matt Costello shared more about the vending machines and the larger treatment ecosystems the CBHJ seeks to facilitate with community partners. “I’m excited to hear your priorities, because that is where the CBHJ lives”, said Costello. In addition to the vending machines, Costello talked about the opioid treatment ecosystem program that helps jails across Michigan develop treatment ecosystems. Both Dr. Gupta and Costello agreed that addressing the opioid overdose epidemic does not stop at reversing overdose. “We want to create systems of care that last beyond grant cycles,” said Director Gupta.

During the call, Director El-Sayed was joined by Costello, CBHJ Implementation Director Matt Larson, and Federal Grants Manager Bethany Hedden-Clayton to discuss an upcoming partnership to place vending machines throughout Wayne County and evaluate the impact widespread naloxone availability has. The project will “represent a big moment in the naloxone space,” said Larson. “It will be the largest naloxone distribution effort in the country to date.”

School of Social Work (SSW) Dean Sheryl Kubiak acted as moderator for the conversationa and facilitated introductions to many other initiatives at the CBHJ and the SSW. Following an introduction to the CBHJ from Deputy Director Liz Tillander, Director Gupta and his team heard from Leonard Swanson on CBHJ crisis response programs, from Hedden-Clayton on harm reduction efforts, and from Dean Kubiak on the School’s workforce development programs.

“All of the prevention and intervention work facilitated by CBHJ would not be possible without an available and trained workforce,” said Dean Kubiak. “The SSW faculty has been exemplary in securing federally funded training and evaluation grants to prepare our students for individual and system level interventions.”

The ONDCP leads and coordinates the nation’s drug policy so that it improves the health and lives of the American people. ONDCP is responsible for the development and implementation of the National Drug Control Strategy and Budget. ONDCP coordinates across 19 federal agencies and oversees a $43 billion budget as part of a whole-of-government approach to addressing addiction and the overdose epidemic. ONDCP also provides hundreds of millions of dollars to help communities stay healthy and safe through the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Program and the Drug-Free Communities program. Learn more by visiting the ONDCP website.

About the Center for Behavioral Health and Justice: The Wayne State University School of Social Work Center for Behavioral Health and envisions communities in which research, data, and best practices are used by multiple stakeholders to enhance the optimal well-being of individuals with mental illness and/or substance use disorders who come into contact with the criminal/legal system. Learn more

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