School of Social Work in the news

To reduce stigma, Oneonta recovery center uses vending machine to distribute overdose reversal drug

By Phoebe Taylor-Vuolo  An addiction recovery center in Otsego County has introduced the first naloxone vending machine in New York. Naloxone, also known as the brand name drug Narcan, can reverse opioid overdoses. Experts hope these vending machines will improve access to the lifesaving drug. The machine was inspired by a program out of the Wayne State University Center for Behavioral Health and Justice. Matt Costello, WSU’s program manager, works with county jails and community centers to bring in naloxone vending machines. The machines are placed in visiting rooms, or in release areas, so people can access them on their way out of jail. Costello said the vending machines offer anonymity, helping to reduce the barriers that people who use drugs often face accessing naloxone. “Again, this is a population that is already dealing with a lot of challenges…many of them stigma-based, shame-based,” Costello said. He said that reducing stigma and providing anonymity are key, and that vending machines should also be placed in areas that are accessible 24 hours a day. “[It would be] nice if crises only happened from nine to five on Monday through Friday,right? We know in the real world, that just doesn’t happen. So if you have a strategically placed machine, it offers the opportunity for ease of access,” Costello said. The program in Michigan has placed 50 machines and distributed 19,000 kits of naloxone.  
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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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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…” 
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No snacks or drinks, these vending machine dispense something that saves lives

By Georgea Kovanis The newest vending machines in Michigan aren’t dispensing pop or chips, they’re doling out Narcan, the medication that reverses opioid overdoses. Popping up at strategic locations, the machines represent the latest attempt to make Narcan more available to the public in an effort to quell the staggering number of overdoses in Michigan and across the nation. Using grant money, Wayne State University’s Center for Behavioral Health and Justice has placed 15 vending machines across the state, including the university’s undergraduate library, as well as centers that provide services for drug users. Eight of the machines are located in county jails – Monroe, Jackson, Manistee, Washtenaw, Delta, Kalamazoo, Wexford and Oakland county jails – for use by inmates who are being released after serving time or, in some cases, by jail visitors. Jails are especially important locations because research shows drug users leaving incarceration are at high risk of fatal overdoses. “The data is clear about overdose rates about people post incarceration,” said Matthew Costello, program manager at the Center for Behavioral Health and Justice. “It’s been proven time and time again in state and state and site and site. So we understand that vulnerability. To ignore that is criminal in its own right.”
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19 children, 2 adults killed in Texas elementary school shooting – 3 essential reads on America’s relentless gun violence

By Matt Williams  At least 19 children and two adults were killed when a teenage gunman shot them at a Texas elementary school on May 24, 2022 – the latest mass shooting in a country in which such incidents have become common. A lot remains unknown about the attack at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, a small, predominantly Latino town in South Texas. Police have not as yet revealed a possible motive behind the attack, in which the 18-year-old went classroom to classroom dressed in body armor and carrying two military-style rifles, according to reports. The frequency of school shootings in the U.S. has increased dramatically over the last few years. The Conversation aggregated stories from their recent archives to explain the history of mass shootings in the U.S. and why the government has failed to take action on gun control. Rebeccah Sokol, assistant professor of social work at Wayne State University, along with University of Michigan scholars Patrick Carter and Marc A. Zimmerman shared their research about how the lack of substantive regulation has led to an ever-increasing number of firearms in the hands of U.S. residents. “Since the onset of the public health crisis, firearm sales have spiked. Many of these firearms have ended up in households with teenage children, increasing the risk of accidental or intentional injury or fatalities, or death by suicide,” the scholars wrote. “Most school shooters obtain the firearm from home. And the number of guns within reach of high school-age teenagers has increased during the pandemic.” 
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Spotlight on the News: Inside Mental Health Awareness Month

As part of Mental Health Awareness Month, Spotlight on the News hosted a discussion about what’s being done in Michigan to increase the number of sorely needed behavioral health professionals, which included insights from Dr. Sheryl Kubiak, dean of the Wayne State University School of Social Work. “As many know, the behavioral health issues that have arisen because of the pandemic have accelerated the need for people with professional degrees in mental health and substance abuse disorders. Unfortunately, prior to the pandemic, we had a shortage of professionals in those fields, particularly in public sector mental health and community mental health. It’s so accelerated now that many of organizations and community providers have up to 30% vacancy rates, and that’s resulted in closing programs and waitlists. It really is not the time to be doing that,” Kubiak said. “From an academic setting, I’m trying to encourage people to come into this profession, but we’ve got some hurdles: high cost of tuition and low wages. It’s not the greatest environment, but it is very worthwhile and we’re working on some of those issues.”  
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Push to improve conditions for Michigan's incarcerated prompts research, proposals for new facility

By Erin Marie Miller Over 30 years ago, Dr. Sheryl Kubiak made an observation that would alter the course of her career forever and, eventually, impact the future of Michigan’s incarcerated. After developing and operating a long-term residential re-entry program for pregnant women addicted to crack cocaine in Detroit for nearly seven years, Kubiak noticed many of the women she was working with struggled with unacknowledged behavioral issues, keeping them locked in a cycle that was often difficult to break free from. “I found out then that the vast majority of people who are coming out into the community (from corrections facilities), or are involved in the criminal/legal system, have behavioral health issues that they are trying to find their way through. What happens is, a lot of times, that behavior gets misinterpreted as ‘bad behavior’ or ‘illegal behavior,' and then they get wrapped up in a system they can't get out of,” Kubiak says. Now the Dean of the Wayne State University School of Social Work, Kubiak is the founding director of the Center for Behavioral Health and Justice (CBHJ) — an initiative that provides research, evaluations, training and support to local communities, behavioral health, and law enforcement agencies, and other organizations in Michigan related to jail diversion, re-entry, crisis response and more.
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What experts say can be done to prevent accidental shootings involving children

Uniquely qualified experts share what can be done to stop accidental shootings involving children. In 2021, nine children were shot with unsecured guns in the Detroit area. So far this year, at least six children have been shot. Firearms are the second leading cause of death among kids in Michigan. And those deaths are entirely preventable. There are 29 states, and Washington D.C., that have laws that penalize parents of a child for allowing access to their guns, known as child access prevention laws. Michigan does have a law that penalizes a parent who knows their child brought a gun to school, but there is no penalty if that gun is fired. Rebeccah Sokol is an assistant professor of social work at Wayne State University. Sokol said in Michigan there are no laws about access prevention, negligent storage, about children having a gun, giving children a gun, and no laws about criminal liability when it comes to a shooting by a child. “These types of laws have been associated with a relative decrease in firearm suicides and unintentional shootings and shooting deaths by an estimated 8% to 19%,” Sokol said. “We do know that the single biggest risk factor for adolescent firearm injury is access to an unsecured firearm. And so, to put this another way: The presence of a firearm in a child or teen’s homes substantially increases the risk of intentional or unintentional firearm death.” 
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Ghislaine Maxwell guilty in Epstein sex trafficking case: What the case revealed about female sex offenders

Poco Kernsmith, professor, Erin B. Comartin, assistant professor, and Sheryl Kubiak, dean and professor, from the Wayne State University School of Social Work, have studied women who have been convicted of sexual assault, abuse and human trafficking, as well as public attitudes toward sex offenders. These scholars wrote an article outlining key takeaways about female sex offenders present in the Ghislaine Maxwell trial and verdict. The British socialite has been convicted for her role in luring and grooming girls to be sexually abused by Jeffrey Epstein. Maxwell was found guilty of five counts, including sex trafficking a minor, and now faces a maximum sentence of 65 years behind bars. Maxwell’s trial provided an opportunity for victims of Epstein and Maxwell to give testimony about the abuse they experienced, and the case also highlights the importance of understanding sex offenses perpetrated by women.  
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Ghislaine Maxwell and what research says about women accused of sexual abuse

Poco Kernsmith, a professor in Wayne State University’s School of Social Work, conducts research around sexual violence prevention and shares her view on the nature and prevalence of female sexual abusers as the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell continues for her alleged role in the sexual abuse and trafficking of young girls with Jeffrey Epstein. Kernsmith says that crime statistics show that the majority of sexual abusers are male, but that national surveys of victimization show rates of female perpetration are six to ten times higher than reports to law enforcement would indicate. Arrest and conviction rates likely underrepresent the number of female sex offenders, because those who have been assaulted by a woman are less likely to report the abuse, and when abuse is reported, women are less likely to be arrested and convicted. When women are accused of sexual offenses, they are frequently accused of participating in abuse with a male co-offender, like the case involving Maxwell and Epstein.
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Jail vending machine provides naloxone to discharged inmates

A jail in southeastern Michigan has a vending machine that dispenses kits designed to reverse the effects of opioid overdoses. Naloxone nasal rescue kits are available free of charge to inmates being discharged from the Oakland County Jail in Pontiac. As part of the release process, deputies advise discharged inmates they can take the kits for personal use or for a family member who may be dependent on opioids. The narcan project is through Wayne State University’s School of Social Work and its Center for Behavioral Health and Justice.   
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Michigan’s lax criminal justice data has dire consequences

A new report from the Center for Behavioral Health and Justice at Wayne State University’s School of Social Work details the ways that Michigan’s criminal justice system fails to keep records and data regarding inmates and conditions in detention facilities. According to the study, the number of children who are in the juvenile justice system in Michigan is unknown. And it says Michigan has no way to accurately measure recidivism in Michigan. Those are just two examples. Authors of the article write that “the culmination of this research and analysis confirmed just how much information is missing, and how much is unknown to the public and practitioners about Michigan’s justice systems.” “To tackle a problem, you have to be able to identify the problem … When different state-level actors do not share data with each other about these structural inequities, I think we have a larger problem,” said Sheryl Kubiak, dean of Wayne State University’s School of Social Work. 
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We don’t know how many kids are in the juvenile justice system

By Garlin Gilchrist, Sheryl Kubiak and Melanca Clark  Missing data is missing people. Absent complete and accurate data, policies to improve the lives of Michiganders may not reach those who are not counted. The issues with data access, consistency, integrity, and transparency span across issue areas, but of particular concern is the prevalence of these data problems in Michigan’s adult and youth criminal justice systems. A new report released Friday by Wayne State University, Overview of the Criminal Legal System in Michigan: Adults and Youth, illuminates the data challenges Michigan faces to improve public safety and community well-being. As noted in the report, Michigan’s data problems impact thousands of young people, adults, and families that touch the justice system. For example, the total number of young people in the youth justice system is unknown because of data limitations at the county and state levels. 
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"Just keep that person alive": Michigan's harm reduction strategies prevent opioid overdoses

While the COVID-19 crisis has held Michigan's attention for the past year and a half, a different deadly epidemic is taking an increasing number of Michiganders' lives. From 2000 to 2018, opioid overdose deaths have grown tenfold in Michigan. And according to Amy Dolinky, senior advisor of Michigan opioids strategy with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), those numbers grew by another 14% in the past year. The state has a seven-pillar strategy to combat the opioid epidemic, one of which is sometimes controversial, yet also quickly gaining recognition and acceptance for its effectiveness: harm reduction. Harm reduction involves expanding access to naloxone and sterile syringes, aiming to minimize harmful effects for those who are using opioids. With funding from MDHHS. Wayne State University professor Brad Ray has spearheaded efforts to put naloxone vending machines into Michigan's county jails and other accessible sites. "The struggle is: How do you get to the people who are going to use naloxone? Jails seemed like a really good opportunity to do that," Ray says. Ray notes that vending machines have been highly effective elsewhere in the country. Los Angeles County has distributed over 34,000 naloxone doses since it began installing vending machines in jails in 2020. So far in Michigan, jails in Monroe, Jackson, Delta, and Kalamazoo counties have the vending machines. Individuals being released can grab a naloxone kit for free, complete with instructions, on their way out. Ray has ordered 10 more of the customized vending machines. Sites in Kent, Oakland, Washtenaw, and Alpena counties are each slated to receive one. "Just keep that person alive," Ray says. "They can't get clean or in recovery if they're dead. Sometimes it takes time."
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Wayne State University launches “holistic defense” pilot for criminal defendants

Wayne State University will implement a holistic defense partnership program in fall 2021. The program will pair social work and law students to assist clients in criminal defense offices in Detroit. The students will tackle systemic issues in the criminal justice system under the supervision of licensed attorneys and social workers. Administrators at the university believe that the holistic approach will spur criminal justice reforms and inspire change in their community. Dan Ellman is an externship professor at the Wayne State University Law School. “When people become enmeshed in the criminal justice system, they face a lot of consequences,” Ellman says. For some individuals, he explains, these consequences can include the deprivation of employment, parental rights and housing. Sheryl Kubiak is the dean of the Wayne State University School of Social Work. Kubiak says interdisciplinary partnerships are often fraught with misunderstandings about objectives. “In these offices, we hope to produce lawyers and social workers who are used to working together,” Kubiak says. Though this initiative may prove to be costly, Kubiak says it is a necessary investment to improve the livelihood of citizens. She explains, ”When you look at the unintended consequences of an individual who goes further and further into the criminal legal system, you have to think about what happened to their children, what about their lost revenue, what about the issues of family disruption, and what are those costs to our society?” 
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Wayne State to pilot holistic defense partnership for law and social work students

Wayne State University Law School and School of Social Work are launching a holistic defense partnership for J.D. and M.S.W. students beginning in fall 2021, with the goal of addressing clients’ legal and social support needs in tandem. Holistic defense – also referred to as community orientated or comprehensive defense – is a term used to describe an innovative approach that employs an interdisciplinary team to consider both the individual and community needs when working with a person charged with a criminal offense. Unintended or collateral consequences of arrest and conviction can include loss of housing, removal of children, and even deportation. The holistic defense approach brings lawyers and social workers together to achieve positive legal and social outcomes for criminal defendants. “Holistic defense is an underutilized opportunity to effect real change in the lives of people navigating the criminal justice system,” said Wayne Law Dean and Professor Richard A. Bierschbach. “Lawyers and social workers have the same goal – to achieve the best possible outcome for their client. By training lawyers and social workers together, we open the door for future professional collaboration that can make all the difference.” In fall 2020, Social Work students embarked on the initial holistic defense pilot year, completing an immersive field placement experience and Social Work courses focused on the intersection of the criminal legal system and the behavioral health needs of their clients. Five students who recently completed the initial requirements in May 2021 worked with lawyers and fellow allied health professional teams to assess client needs, provide resources and information, and serve as an advocate for their client as they navigate complicated social systems. “The holistic defense model encompasses much of what we do each day as social workers – working in tandem with our clients, colleagues and community partners to provide comprehensive care and empower change in our community. What is unique about this approach is the integration into the criminal legal system, which has resulted in shorter client sentences, a reduction in pre-trial detention and ultimately saved taxpayer dollars,” said Social Work Dean and Professor Sheryl Kubiak.
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Mort Harris, philanthropist and American Axle co-founder, dies at 101

Mort Harris, who co-founded auto industry supplier American Axle & Manufacturing Inc. and earned renown for his philanthropy, has died at 101. Born April 11, 1920, in Detroit, Harris started attending Wayne State University in 1939. During World War II, he was a fighter pilot, flying a B17 bomber on 33 runs over Germany and France, including two on D-Day. After the war, he attended Wayne State University but didn't finish, Harris told The News in 2019.  "I wish I could start all over and get a bachelor's degree in business," he said at the time. Harris eventually turned to industry, joining his uncle's industrial slag company, then buying a metallurgical products firm. After American Axle went public in 1999, he told The News, "I thought, 'OK, now what am I going to do?' I chose philanthropy." He had already frequently contributed to institutions such as the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Institute of Arts and Michigan Science Center. His name now graces a recreation and fitness Center at Wayne State. In 2017, he gave $10 million to help Wayne Med-Direct, a Wayne State University program that aids admission to an undergraduate honors college and creates a pipeline to medical school.  Harris also had been among the school's top five donors, having also contributed to social work and literacy programs. In 1970, he established the Edith Harris Memorial Scholarship in the School of Social Work in honor of his first wife, joining the Anthony Wayne Society, the university’s highest donor recognition group, as an inaugural member, officials said. With his second wife, Brigitte, he continued to support a lecture series in the School of Social Work and scholarships for students in the College of Engineering, along with the Damon J. Keith Collection at the Law School and other university initiatives. In 2012, they established the Mort Harris Endowed Scholarship Fund in the School of Medicine and the Mort Harris Office for Adult Literacy Endowment Fund with a $5 million gift. Harris also supported many community organizations, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan, Focus: HOPE, and Detroit Public Television, Wayne State said. In a statement Friday, WSU President M. Roy Wilson described Harris as a humble giver. "Anyone who has reached his incredibly high levels of success could be justifiably proud, but that wasn’t Mort," Wilson said. "Despite his financial success and his many military and civilian honors, Mort was humble and kind, and he would happily opt for a sandwich over a five-star meal because it was the people he was with that mattered most. "Wayne State was the fortunate beneficiary of Mort’s thoughtful generosity, and his substantial gifts were often in support of students in need."
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Activists, state authorities and lawsuits filed by survivors are putting pressure on the ‘troubled teens’ industry to change its ways

Heather E. Mooney, Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology, wrote an article for The Conversation. “Many Americans who spent time as teenagers in residential facilities that rely on “tough love” treatments to change behaviors are becoming more vocal in denouncing what they say are institutional abuses. Their call for cracking down on the previously lightly regulated “troubled teen industry is getting amplified by movements like Breaking Code Silence and the National Youth Rights Association, and by celebrities who were sent to these programs as teens, such as Paris Hilton and Paris Jackson. 
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City of Detroit program aims to employ returning citizens coming out of jail

The city of Detroit is cleaning up one alley at a time while giving a second chance to the people who are coming out of jail or prison. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, "returning citizens" face unemployment at a rate of over 27% higher than the rest of the population. Delvin Wallace is a returning citizen, a free man since January 2020. He takes advantage of work opportunities like at the COVID-19 testing site at the former State Fairgrounds through "Detroit At Work." The program then got him connected to the city's alley cleanup project in August. Sheryl Kubiak, dean of the School of Social Work at Wayne State University, used to run a re-entry program in the city for women. She said going from a regimented life behind bars to a free society full of choices can be overwhelming. "Having employment that provides you with a regular schedule, that provides you with socialization to others who are doing, kind of, the work of life is really a helpful support benefit. But the more meaningful the employment is and the higher the wages, the most likely people aren't going to go back into criminal behavior," Kubiak said.