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Michigan launches new tool to address substance use

prescription pill bottle
Melissa Benmark
Michigan Radio

Michigan has been relying on overdose mortality data alone to identify areas of the state with higher substance use. Now, it's adding more data to its assessments and creating a new county-by-county index of substance use risk.

The state Department of Health and Human Services says the new data paints a clearer picture of how substance use is affecting communities.

The data includes information about access to resources, nonfatal overdoses, and the social and economic conditions in each number to arrive at a score called the Substance Use Vulnerability Index.

The index shows the county most vulnerable to substance use problems is Oscoda in Northern Michigan, followed by Wayne, Clare, Schoolcraft, and Oceana counties.

The health department said that list does not look the same as the list of counties by fatal overdose rate. "Some counties may have fewer resources and higher social vulnerability, meaning they are more susceptible to adverse outcomes linked with substance use."

Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, the state's chief medical executive, said the new index will help efforts to prevent and treat substance use. "Substance use disorder programming is most effective when it is community-focused and data-driven,” Bagdasarian said in an announcement accompanying the launch of the index.

The health department said the data will help it direct the $800 million it's getting over next 18 years as part of a nationwide opioid settlement.

State officials say half of that money will go directly to counties and local governments.

Briana Rice is Michigan Public's criminal justice reporter. She's focused on what Detroiters need to feel safe and whether they're getting it.
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