How a new approach to the opioid epidemic will impact Mid-Michigan

Plan focuses on “harm reduction”
How a new approach to the opioid epidemic will impact Mid-Michigan
Published: Apr. 21, 2022 at 7:12 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 21, 2022 at 9:16 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - President Joe Biden introduced a National Drug Control Strategy to Congress on Thursday, April 21, 2022 that will address untreated addiction and drug trafficking -- two critical drivers of the overdose epidemic.

The White House has released Biden’s plan, which focuses on harm reduction. That includes making treatment easier to get -- fewer than 7% of addicts were able to get into a rehabilitation facility in 2020. The plan also means more access to Naloxone -- also known as Narcan -- and more syringe services at a community level, which keeps people from getting infected with diseases from used needles.

Julia Miller is the co-founder and director of Punks with Lunch Lansing. Before that, she was an active drug user in the “early to mid-nineties and into the 2000′s.”

Miller believes if harm reduction was around when she was an active user, many lives could have been saved.

“I think there would have been more people seeking recovery options,” Miller said.

She also thinks there would have been less of a stigma and people wouldn’t have to “hide what they were doing.”

Miller now spends her time offering harm reduction services and education to help her community. She said, to her, that means, “meeting people where they’re at -- people that have substance abuse disorders and are in need of supplies that can help them to be safer in their use.”

Dr. Dani Meier, Ph.D, works with a state agency that oversees substance use, prevention and treatments. Meier said drug control strategy will be impactful because the focus is on harm reduction.

“[It] helps us reduce the stigma, stop blaming people with addictions, focusing on saving lives by providing lifesaving medications like Narcan, and using Fentanyl strips so people can identify if the drugs they are using has Fentanyl in them,” Meier said.

Both Miller and Meier agree that Fentanyl being used in opioids is what’s really driving the overdose epidemic.

“We didn’t have as heavy of a Fentanyl problem in that time period either, so overdoses weren’t as predominate as they are now,” Miller recalled.

Related: Fentanyl behind doubling of teen overdose deaths over past decade, study says

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