LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has initiated a program to expand transportation services for substance use disorder treatment and recovery, resulting in over 4,100 rides provided to individuals in need within the first four months.

According to MDHHS, the effort, funded by opioid settlement dollars, aims to reduce drug-related overdose fatalities and address racial disparities in overdoses across the state.

Transportation surfaced as a notable obstacle in accessing treatment for substance use disorder.

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Transportation emerged as a significant barrier for patients completing services, as highlighted in the Opioids Settlement Survey and an MDHHS report revealed that one in six beneficiaries reported missing medication-assisted treatment doses due to transportation challenges in the past six months.

Health dept. gives millions to agencies for treatment services.

MDHHS has allocated over $2.7 million from opioid settlement funds to 17 agencies, targeting economically disadvantaged individuals seeking or undergoing treatment, harm reduction, or recovery support services.

Michigan stands to receive close to $1.6 billion from national opioid settlements by 2040, with half allocated to the State of Michigan Opioid Healing and Recovery Fund, and the remainder distributed directly to county, city and township governments.

Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Chief Medical Executive and Michigan Opioids Task Force co-chair, says in a MDHHS press release “Opioid settlement funding is allowing us to better address gaps in substance use disorder services as we focus on the highest need communities in our state. The more than 4,100 rides to treatment and recovery services provided with this funding will help improve outcomes for patients.”

Money used for gas cards, bus passes, ride share services and more.

The grants enable agencies to enhance transportation capacity for participants attending treatment appointments and access additional supportive services. Funds may also be utilized for gas cards, bus passes, and taxi/rideshare services.

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Brenda Maks from Live Rite Structured Recovery Corp. in Macomb County expressed appreciation for the grant’s impact on their clients. “In just four months, we have provided 1,780 rides to 378 individuals,” she noted.

Additionally, Great Lakes Recovery Centers (GLRC) in Marquette County utilized grant funding to acquire three vehicles, facilitating transportation for over 60 individuals attending medical, legal, and job-related appointments.

Naveed Syed, CEO of Quality Behavioral Health in Wayne County, also outlined the diverse support offered with the grant, including round-the-clock transportation to treatment, assistance with medical and legal appointments, and alternative transportation options like bus tickets and rideshare services.