Overcoming addiction: Eaton County officials make plans for stronger addiction recovery tools with settlement funding

Eaton County officials make plans for stronger addiction recovery tools with settlement funding
Published: Nov. 17, 2023 at 7:10 PM EST
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EATON COUNTY, Mich. (WILX) - Kaitlin Powell was only 13 years old when her addiction began.

After years of struggling, Powell eventually moved to Mid-Michigan from Las Vegas, and found a path to recovery, and a career as a recovery coach.

“I found out that God had me go through everything that I went through so I could be here, having a story that can relate to the people I’m working with,” she said.

While Powell is now several years sober, opioid addiction continues to take the lives of thousands of people ever year in Michigan, but officials in Eaton County are working on a three-year plan to bring that number down.

According to data from the State of Michigan, there were more than 2,600 opioid-related deaths in 2022 — a number that’s 7% lower than those deaths tallied the year before, but still a life-threatening epidemic. In the same year, Eaton Count saw 28 opioid-related deaths.

“Not just the families; the mothers, the fathers, the sisters, the brothers, the children, the loved ones, the buddies, the friends in your neighborhood,” said Deborah Smith, a co-owner of addiction recovery organization Wellness INX. “I mean, what a crisis that is to have 28 people die.”

A crisis, that Smith said has seen improvement over time with live-saving medications like Narcan becoming free and accessible in the state. Earlier this year, Lifeboat Recovery Services, an organization connected to Wellness INX, received a free Naloxone vending machine of its own.

Some vending machines have also been installed across Eaton County, but officials are expecting more recovery tools in the near future, with $400,000 in opioid settlement funds at their disposal. Those settlement dollars are being paid out by companies like CVS and Walgreen’s for their mishandling of prescription drugs.

A total of $400,000 will now be awarded to Eaton County every year, for the next 18 years. The county’s first order of business is to develop a three-year plan to put more addiction recovery tools into the community.

“So the strategic plan is going to assess the current resources and strategies in place in Eaton County, as well as provide some harm reduction and prevention strategies.” said County Communications Director Logan Bailey.

Although funding is important, both Bailey and team members working at Lifeboat and Wellness INX say reducing opioid overdoses and deaths also takes members of the community coming together, and letting people who need those resources know they’re available.

“It’s really important that they have as many resources as possible at their disposal,” said Wellness INX Co-owner Christian Powell. “And they create effectively a wraparound service, to service the individual.”

Powell said Lifeboat works with people from across Mid-Michigan to aid in their journey to recovery, including those from Eaton County. He and Smith are both looking forward to an expansion of the services already available in the area.

Bailey said Eaton County’s strategic plan should take about seven to eight months to put together. It will then be passed along to the board for final approval. Working alongside the county to build the plan is the Barry-Eaton District Health Department, and the Michigan Association of Counties.

“What’s really exciting about the work in eaton county is that this will address all substance use,” said Opioid Settlement Funds Advisor Amy Dolinky.

As the county works to develop the strategic plan, it’s asking for input from people who are willing to share their addiction or recovery story, as well as from the organizations that help them.

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