Ferris Awarded $1 Million to Fight Opioid Misuse in Rural Counties

Prevention, treatment and recovery programming to focus on Mecosta, Newaygo and Osceola counties

Campus viewThe U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) awarded Ferris State University a $1 million grant to help combat opioid drug misuse in Mecosta, Newaygo and Osceola counties, three western Michigan counties that regularly rank as having some of the highest opioid prescription rates and poorest health behaviors in the state. Ferris and its program partners were one of 89 recipients nationally to receive funding from the multi-year initiative by HRSA to reduce substance-related morbidity and mortality in high risk rural counties. 

The $1 million award is the largest academic grant received by the University and will serve as a continuation of a 2019 $200,000 HRSA grant that funded the planning for a consortium, the Central Michigan Recovery and Education Network (CMREN), to execute the work starting Sept. 1. In 2016, Ferris created the FSU Opioid Task Force, and has served as the organizing body for the work surrounding the grants. 

CMREN consortium members include leaders from Ferris State University’s College of Health Professions, College of Pharmacy, the Michigan College of Optometry and the College of Arts and Science’s Social Work program, as well as Spectrum Health Big Rapids-Reed City, Michigan District Health Department #10, Community Mental Health for Central Michigan, and several affiliate agencies in the region. 

Ferris faculty member Gail Bullard, associate professor and director, Master of Healthcare Administration Program, College of Health Professions, will serve as project director and Scott Sexton, assistant professor, College of Pharmacy will serve as principle investigator. 

"This grant allows Ferris State University to build partnerships within the three-county area of Mecosta, Newaygo and Osceola over the next three years and beyond, as we strive to address the treatment, education and recovery needs for this noble and much needed work in substance use disorder and opioid use disorder in our communities," said Bullard. 

The three counties targeted rank in the bottom half of Michigan’s 83 counties for Health Behaviors – Mecosta (67th), Newaygo (55th) and Osceola (78th). According to 2018 data, the annual prescribing rate for opioids nationally is 51.4 prescriptions/100 persons, with the rate in those three counties exceeding this: Mecosta (69.9), Newaygo (88.5) and Osceola (51.9). 

Each of the activities our consortium has planned build toward the ultimate goal of reducing the number of individuals who are passing away every year due to substance use,” said Sexton. “The Central Michigan Recovery and Education Network aims to connect the services currently being provided for prevention, treatment and recovery as they relate to substance use. We plan to reduce stigma and increase the education and awareness of substance use, including available options for treatment and recovery, among the public and health care providers in the three-county area[MLR1] [JJM2] .

Since 2016, Ferris State University has engaged partners in the community that are involved in prevention, treatment, and recovery of substance use disorder. The group has spent the last year bringing community partners together to assess the types of work being done in this field and determine barriers to accessing these services. The group intends to engage partners across the state to increase the workforce in this field and offer more services for individuals in the area.

To date, several organizations have joined CMREN as affiliate partners, including:

  • Area Health Education Center - Mid Michigan
  • Families Against Narcotics
  • Family Healthcare
  • Michigan Center for Rural Health
  • Michigan Opioid Prescribing Engagement Network
  • Sisters of Sobriety
  • Ten16 Recovery Services

“Through our planning, we have determined there is a great need to connect community partners in this field and share awareness with the public regarding the options that exist for prevention, treatment and recovery,” adds Sexton. “By increasing collaboration, number of services provided and access to care, our goal is to reduce the number of deaths caused by substance use.” 

“Ferris State and its collaborative partners remain grateful to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration for its ongoing dedication to combat this drug misuse,” said Stephen Durst, dean, College of Pharmacy. “This ongoing commitment allows us to continue helping the agencies involved in the front lines of this endeavor[JJM3] .” 

Aug. 12, 2020
Contact: Craig Clark, (616) 550-2736, [email protected]