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Detroit police make 60+ mental health runs per day; new program aims to help

By Sarah Grimmer Activists in Detroit have called for a third-party mental health response team. Dr. Gerald Sheiner, a psychiatrist at Sinai-Grace Hospital and professor at Wayne State University, agrees. “Mental health care is at a crisis state in our city and across the country,” Sheiner said. Dr. Sheiner responds to mental health patients at the hospital and says when those patients are having their worst moments, the presence of weapons or intimidating personnel often makes the situation worse. “Patients who experience those type of difficulties are often frightened and think that everyone else is out to do them harm,” he said. “Mental health professionals are the best fit personnel to respond to mental health crisis, but mental health professionals are not available.” With a lack of a mental health response team, Detroit police have been responding to the uptick in mental health calls. The department is responding to an average of 64 mental health runs per day, more than three times as many as in 2020. “64 calls a day is beyond the ability of emergency services to care for in many instances,’ said Sheiner. DPD has been partnering with the Detroit Wayne Integrated Crisis Intervention Team for training and are working with activists and elected officials to create a non-police response program to address non-violent mental health calls. “I think that a straight up mental health response presents someone to intervene who is less threatening to a patient and someone who intervenes who has more experience dealing with a patient in crisis,” said Sheiner.
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Investigators go inside Wayne County Morgue more than a year after exposing mistakes, mismanagement

By Karen Drew  It’s been a year-long investigation exposing poor record keeping, decomposing bodies and delays in contacting families of the dead at the Wayne County Morgue. Local 4’s Karen Drew, who led the year-long investigation of issue at the Wayne County Morgue, sat down with the new leadership, Wayne State University’s School of Medicine. Wayne State University School of Medicine has taken over the Wayne County Morgue with a 5-year, $70 million contract. Dean Dr. Wael Sakr discussed how he plans to address issues at the morgue, including an aggressive recruitment campaign to hire more medical examiners, improved record keeping and more. “We’re going to fix that [record keeping] through our software and data management, we are implementing the most current, modern version of it by the end of the month,” Dr. Sakr said. In a rare and surprising move, the new leadership allowed Local 4 cameras inside the medical examiner’s office. “Beyond just autopsies, and toxicology and histology. But how can we improve the health of the people in Wayne County? We can do that through the medical examiner’s office. There is data that we can utilize to really help us from a population health perspective,” said Thane Peterson, vice dean for finance and administration at the School of Medicine.  
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Attendance rates in Michigan schools reach five-year low

By Sascha Raiyn  Attendance in Michigan schools fell during the 2021-22 academic year. The Detroit Free Press reports the statewide attendance rate has fallen below 90% for the first time in five years, hitting 88% last year. Detroit’s public school system has struggled with attendance throughout the COVID pandemic. DPSCD’s attendance rate for the 2021 school year was around 75%. According to Sarah Lenhoff, a professor of education at Wayne State University, housing insecurity made worse by the pandemic is a major factor in chronic absenteeism. “We’re seeing that revert back to normal and maybe even worse than normal in terms of students experiencing housing instability,” Lenhoff said. “We know that housing instability, homelessness, eviction are just really high correlates to attendance problems.”  
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Mobile health meets Detroiters ‘where they are’ for care

By Julie Walker After two decades of providing care in the Sinai-Grace emergency room, nurse Josephine Quaye-Molex has embraced a new way of connecting with patients. In late July, the venue was a van parked outside Immanuel Grace AME Church on Conner. Quaye-Molex joined the Wayne Health Mobile Unit about a year ago and said the ease of access has been reassuring for those who often have felt dismissed or mistrustful of doctors in traditional healthcare settings. The mobile units, she said, are meeting residents where they are and, in turn, building trust in the community. The setting also gives Quaye-Molex a chance to offer more feedback than the hospital’s ER might typically allow. “I get a lot more time to be able to sit and talk with my patients, or whoever it is that has approached,” she said. “They don’t necessarily have to get services, they just may have questions, and I’m able to answer those questions now.” Born out of necessity during the early peaks of the pandemic, some of the most vocal advocates behind mobile health said they are hopeful that the concept will alleviate barriers to healthcare access and increase trust in underserved communities like Detroit. Dr. Phillip Levy, who practices emergency room medicine at DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital and leads the WSU and Wayne Health Mobile Unit program, is hopeful that they will help revolutionize medicine in at least two ways; easing access to care and preventing serious diseases before they start. Levy says five factors – high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, high cholesterol and obesity – contribute to 80% of chronic illnesses in the country, especially heart disease. Levy’s findings resulted in a grant and Wayne State University supported efforts to turn that data into a tool. The tool, coined PHOENIX, is intended to be used by community members and healthcare professionals to identify and curb risk factors before they turn into deadly disease. “At the end of the day, we’re going to affect the most people by screening for the most common disorders and diseases and fixing those problems,” Dr. Levy said. 
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Detroit Equity Symposium pushes for more equity in corporate Detroit

Detroit-area companies and business leaders met at Wayne State University to discuss how to bring greater diversity, equity and inclusion to Detroit’s corporate community during the Detroit Equity Symposium on Sept. 27. The group discussed issues like the corporate racial wage gap and cited a recent study that showed Black Detroiters between 2010 and 2019 saw an 8% increase in median income compared to 60% for white Detroiters. In attendance at the symposium were Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II, Bishop Edgar L. Vann and Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson.  
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Heart disease exposes disparities, so medicine goes mobile in Detroit

By Robin Erb   Death comes early to Detroit, killing residents in some neighborhoods 12 to 15 years earlier than Michiganders elsewhere. Thickening heart muscles, narrowing arteries and cholesterol deposits are hallmarks of the heart disease silently afflicting Detroiters and building toward life-threatening heart attacks or strokes. Dr. Brian O’Neil, chair of emergency medicine at Wayne State University’s School of Medicine, said that young doctors arriving in Detroit are often blown away by patients’ blood pressure readings. The coronavirus has exacerbated chronic conditions, increased the number of deaths of preventable diseases because people skipped regular check-ups, and disrupted transportation options for those seeking to get to doctors. As a result, more people who suffered heart attacks or strokes died because they laced swift medical intervention. The pandemic also proved the nimble nature of mobile health. Dr. Phil Levy, an emergency medicine doctor at Detroit’s Receiving and Sinai-Grace hospitals and a researcher at Wayne State University, was positioned to act because he and his team had gathered and arranged data for years to map out hypertension rates in the Detroit area. Their data tool, called Population Health OutcomEs aNd Information Exchange (PHOENIX) revealed neighborhoods strained by high blood pressure and stress based on social vulnerability index factors. Even in the earliest days of the pandemic, the parallels between COVID and heart disease in Detroit were obvious, Levy said. “We started seeing everything that was happening with the brown and Black communities in Detroit and around Detroit – especially around the Sinai Grace area – and the increased caseload and death rate that was occurring in Detroit,” Levy said. In April, the Wayne Health mobile health fleet began with a single van. By the end of this year, it will consist of ten vans that visit schools, churches, festivals and neighborhood parking lots.   
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Detroit launches attendance initiatives as rising absenteeism threatens pandemic recovery

By Grace Tucker  Detroit school district officials are planning more aggressive steps to reverse a rise in chronic absenteeism, a huge obstacle to their efforts to help students recover academically from the impact of the pandemic. In the latest school year, 77% of Detroit Public Schools Community District student were chronically absent, meaning they missed at least 10% of school days. Researchers say the figures are further evidence that the district needs to do more to address the broad range of causes for Detroit’s long struggles with absenteeism, including socioeconomic and transportation factors. “I think there’s this impression that Detroit parents don’t care about school, and that could not be further from the truth,” said Sarah Lenhoff, an associate professor at Wayne State University’s College of Education. “Families want their kids to be in school.” Lenhoff co-authored a study analyzing the rise in absenteeism rates during the 2020-21 school year, and said technology was a main contributor, noting that 40% of parents reported that computer problems, like Wi-Fi issues and poor-quality laptops hindered student access to online classrooms. When Detroit’s kids don’t make it to school, Lenhoff said. “it really speaks to the need for the city to invest more in employment, invest in stabilized housing, and make sure that families have the food and health care that they need, so that they can give their children what they want to give them…get them into school.”  
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City of Detroit on the rise as average home price surpasses $100,000

The median sale price for a home in the city crossed the $100,000 mark for the first time ever. It’s a significant sign of the strength of Detroit’s housing market. Jeff Horner, a Wayne State professor of urban studies and planning, says this has double significance. “It’s an important psychological barrier for long-time Detroiters who have stayed in the city and have kept up their property, because they certainly have a lot to do with stabilizing housing valuations,” he said. Horner pointed to the work of Mayor Mike Duggan’s administration and the Land Bank as keys to rising home prices. 
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Median Detroit home prices hit $100,000, highest value ever

Median Detroit home prices hit $100,000, highest value ever By Arielle Kass The median sales price for a home in the city of Detroit topped $100,000 in June, the first time values have been that high, according to multiple listing and service data. The median sales price of $100,250 in the city is based on 381 sales in June, and is more than a third higher than a year earlier, when the median sales price was $72,500. The increase in values is beneficial for homeowners, particularly those who have held on to properties for many years. But it can also put houses further out of reach for the first-time buyers. In a city that has long been known for its cheap housing stock following the aftermath of the Great Recession there is also an “important psychological benchmark, of course,” in hitting $100,000, said Jeff Horner, associate professor of teaching in the department of urban studies and planning at Wayne State University. “Any time housing valuations are going up in the largest poor city in America, it’s going to be good.”
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Wayne State’s archaeology students and professors dig at Malcolm X’s home in Inkster

All week, students from Wayne State University have been working to uncover history at a home that once belonged to Malcolm X. The archaeological dig is looking to give new insight into the home and the surrounding neighborhood. Very few places that the civil rights leader resided in are still standing today, but thanks to members of an Inkster neighborhood, X’s early 1950s home is still up. “We have no expectations,” said Wayne State University professor and project manager Tareq Ramadan. “We’re hoping to find something maybe linked to the family or to Malcolm himself.” So far, they’ve found things like a stroller, picture frames and even an old Faygo can that will eventually fill the home once it is restored and turned into a museum. “We hope to fill the house with both materials we collected from the actual dig, but also stuff that we’ve collected,” Ramadan said “We have people who are donating period furniture and appliances from the 1950s to make the house look like it did when Malcolm would have lived here.”  
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Wayne State students to conduct demographic study for Detroit auto show

By Kurt Nagl Wayne State University sociology students will be conducting a demographic study for the North American International Auto Show in September to give organizers a better idea of its audience. In addition to this student project, the university’s Mike Ilitch School of Business will host an executive speaker series with an emphasis on the issue of recruiting diverse talent in the automotive industry. The Detroit auto show, scheduled for September 14 to 25 will return to downtown Detroit for the first time since 2019. The new indoor-outdoor format seeks to attract a new type of audience and raises questions about how the event will fit in the industry’s show circle going forward. “Our partnership with Wayne State University is a great example of the community outreach we are undertaking this fall as part of the auto show,” Rod Alberts, executive director of the show, said. “Students will be directly engaged with the show, managing and completing a demographic study of the various audiences that the show attracts.” 
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Wayne State University leads excavations of Malcom X’s Inkster home and Detroit history

By Rasha Almulaiki Beginning Wednesday, a team from Wayne State University’s department of anthropology will be conducting three-day archaeological excavations at the one-time home of American civil rights leader Malcom X, located at 4336 Williams St. in Inkster. The home is owned by the Inkster-based non-profit organization Project We Hope Dream and Believe and is partnering with WSU for the excavation digs. Excavations will be led by Tareq A. Ramadan, project manager at Project We Hope, Dream, and Believe and adjunct professor in the department of anthropology, Krysta Ryzewski, chair of the department of anthropology and associate professor and Aaron Sims, founder and executive director of Project We Hope, Dream, and Believe. 
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30 years of the Concert of Colors

In the 1980s, a group of community leaders from around metro Detroit began gathering regularly to talk about building community coalitions. At the invitation of New Detroit, they formed a racial justice organization in response to the 1967 Detroit rebellion. Leaders gathered to broaden the participation of communities of color and act together in difficult times or when there were social problems. Roughly 30 leaders met monthly, including representatives from the African and African American, Arab, Chinese, and Latino communities. At each meeting, a participating ethnic group presented their community and gave an update on art, culture, and the different socioeconomic issues afflicting them. By the early 1990s, Detroit had suffered from decades of white flight and financial disinvestment, and the relationship between Detroit and the mostly white suburbs was fraught with racial tension. With tension permeating the city, building networks of communities of color was imperative, and the participating leaders formed the Cultural Exchange Network, which would go on to organize the Concert of Colors as an event to bring people together around live music and improve people’s unconscious attitudes towards other cultural groups. As the immigrant populations grew, there was very little interaction between those communities, and at times the intra-community relationships were hostile. Issues often arose between Arab gas station owners in Detroit and the Black customers they served. “Yet there was no uprising or anything around Black Detroiters, and the Arab-owned gas stations. And the reason there wasn’t was because of the work being done behind the scenes,” said Shirley Stancato, member of the Board of Governors at Wayne State University and the former president of New Detroit. “You would be amazed at the things that didn’t happen because we were working together behind the scenes and having deep conversations. That’s the kind of work that helps build community and develops relationships. You sustain those relationships through the tough times, and that’s a big, big piece of the concept around the Concert of Colors.”  
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Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office adds vending machine with naloxone free to public

By Amber Ainsworth  Free naloxone, known by the brand name Narcan, is now available from the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office. Naloxone is used to reverse an opioid overdose. It does not have any impact on a person who does not have opioids in their system, making it a good antidote to have in case someone may be overdosing. The Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office partnered with the Wayne State University Center for Behavioral Health and Justice and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to get the vending machine.  
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Wayne County partners with Wayne State University to operate Medical Examiner’s Office

Wayne County and Wayne State University have finalized an agreement to partner in the operation of the county’s Office of the Medical Examiner for a five-year period, which was unanimously approved by the Wayne County Commission. The agreement anticipates the transfer of the oversight of the office from the University of Michigan to WSU on Oct. 1, subject to the terms of a mutually agreeable operating agreement. “This is good news for Wayne County,” said Wayne County Executive Warren C. Evans. “Wayne State University has a great reputation, but equally as important is that this is an institution with longstanding ties to our community. They care about the people they serve in Wayne County because to them this is personal, and that’s so important for a relationship like this to work.” “The university, through its School of Medicine and our other health sciences programs, will provide state-of-the-art forensics services, public health research and education,” said Wael Sakr, dean of the Wayne State University School of Medicine and former chair of the department of pathology. “As part of the agreement, Wayne State commits to launching an aggressive program of retention and recruitment of forensic pathologists and associated professionals, and to initiate planning for a forensic pathology fellowship program. We look forward to providing this critical service to the residents of Wayne County.”  
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Project aims to find new ways to convert river water into drinking water as pollutants evolve

The Great Lakes Water Authority is contracting with Wayne State University to do research at its Waterworks Park treatment plant in Detroit. Inside the facility, there’s a 12,000-to-1 scale model of the water treatment system. It’s large enough for people to work inside and “mimics the operations of this huge full-scale drinking water plant,” said Carol Miller, a civil engineering professor and the director of Wayne State's Healthy Urban Waters Program. The university will use the model to find new ways the plant can convert river water into drinking water. Miller says there are many steps that river water goes through before it gets to your kitchen faucet. Researchers are looking at how impurities are removed in various steps in the process and to better understand how to handle new and emerging contamination threats. “The idea here is that you definitely don’t want to mess with the actual full-scale operating system that is working to deliver drinking water for our region until you’ve tested something out,” Miller said. Our group has been looking very closely at the group of contaminants that are just generally called PFAS compounds. Also, pharmaceuticals and personal care products.” Another key area for the project is workforce development to train people for jobs in the water utility industry. The pilot plant allows them to educate potential employees and students on the operation of the full-scale water treatment plant.  
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Free Narcan vending machines popping up around Michigan

Vending machines distributing the opioid-overdose-reversing-drug Narcan are being installed in strategic locations in an effort to reduce the number of overdoses in Michigan and throughout the country. Wayne State University’s Center for Behavioral Health and Justice has used grant money to place 15 vending machines across the state, in places like county jails, centers that provide services for drug users, and the university’s undergraduate library. “You could administer Narcan, and if you are wrong – and the person is not overdosing – there is no harm to the individual,” said Wayne State University Center for Behavioral Health and Justice program manager Matthew Costello. Costello speaks with Paul W. Smith about the benefits the machines have for the community, and how people can assess and decide to administer Narcan. “We’re very excited about this program…we know it’s a lifesaving program…,” said Costello. Some of the people who are at most of overdosing are those coming out of jail. “Narcan is just one approach that the CBHJ has to address this issue. Part of my responsibility is to set up assistance programming inside our county jails so those people who are opioid-involved coming into the jails can either continue or begin treatment for their opioid addiction while they’re incarcerated…”