School of Social Work in the news

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Amid an urgent public health crisis, a bid to find better ways to curb opioid abuse

Against a backdrop of steadily-soaring opioid-related death rates in the U.S., state agencies and private funders are pairing up to tackle the complex problem of opioid use disorder. A new program, recently announced by the Michigan Opoid Partnership and Governor Gretchen Whitmer, aims to serve as a model of best practices for other states, especially those with large rural populations, in addressing opioid addiction. The $5 million series of grants will go towards the removal of barriers to effective treatment for opioid use disorder at all levels, from training and prevention to coordination, implementation and data collection. Another $1.5 million of the funds will go to select county jails and Wayne State University's Center for Behavioral Health and Justice, which will coodinate MAT programs and therapeutic behavioral treatments for incarcerated individuals over a 16-month period.
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$5M pledged for new opioid addition treatment program in public, private partnership

Combining private and public dollars, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer launched a new initiative to combat the same growing opioid crisis in the state that’s plaguing the country and killing thousands of Americans every year. The collaborative program, dubbed the Michigan Opioid Partnership, aims to remove barriers to those people who need to enter an opioid treatment program and find a path to success, Whitmer said Monday afternoon during a news conference on the campus of Wayne State University. In addition to the medication system in hospitals, the program will assist jails using a continuity-of-care approach focused on long-term treatment of opioid disorder using $1.5 million in funds. The Center for Behavioral Health and Justice at Wayne State University will get the grant to coordinate the efforts. County jails will be selected for funding to work in partnership with the university team to serve inmates with addiction. The program will last 16-months and will work like an extension of the current program in place, explained Sheryl Kubiac, the dean of Wayne State University’s School of Social Work and Director of the Center for Behavioral Health. Kubiac said the program was already involved in 16 counties with jail administrators and community stakeholders. “We’re going to act as sort of the glue, or the external facilitators to go into the counties and get folks to talk to each other,” she said. “Inside the jails we are going to lead them through a needs assessment. Each one of the county jails that works with us will get approximately $250,000 to be able to apply to an area of need.” Kubiac said working with addicts in jail is different than when someone is in the emergency department at a hospital; in jail, a person is forced to look at the problem and can’t hide from it. “You don’t get the hospital ER where they come in and go out. People that go in jail are usually there for a few days so you get a chance to really engage them, or begin the process of engagement and that’s really important when someone is addicted – you need that time to really engage them,” she said. “The medications do a start to get people paying attention and stabilize, but then what we have to do is try and figure out why they were using and try to fix what’s happening emotionally or psychologically.”
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Study finds treating inmates’ mental health reduces their risk of returning to jail

A new study offers a solution to the problems of jail overcrowding and recidivism in Michigan: Invest more in mental health and drug treatment. Wayne State University’s Center for Behavioral Health and Justice spent five years reviewing treatment and jail-diversion programs in 10 counties. Researchers found that people who got treatment for mental health disorders were less likely to return to jail. “Training law enforcement to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental illness is really important,” says Sheryl Kubiak, dean of WSU’s School of Social Work who led the study. “When we did pre- and post-interviews, officers would tell us things like they didn’t believe in mental illness, they just thought it was bad behavior. If we can decrease the number of people who go into costly confinement and deter them to treatment, I think we will do a lot better.” 
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Addressing mental health key to improving criminal justice system

Diverting individuals with mental health disorders into treatment programs rather than simply jailing them not only significantly reduces the jail population but also lowers the chances of recidivism among offenders, according to a five-year study conducted by the Center for Behavioral Health and Justice at Wayne State University’s School of Social Work and released by the state of Michigan. According to the study, 54 percent of all individuals booked into jails in the target counties reported some variation of a substance abuse problem, while 45 percent described themselves as housing insecure and 42 percent said they had been recently incarcerated. Meanwhile, 34 percent had some indication of mental illness. “More than just a collection of data, this report offers us an early roadmap to drastic improvements in how our criminal justice system handles issues of mental illness and substance abuse,” said Sheryl Kubiak, dean of the Wayne State School of Social Work and the principal investigator for the study. “In addressing these issues, we also give ourselves opportunity to address many of the problems that these issues underlie, including jail overcrowding, poor access to mental health, and drug treatment and recidivism.” Drug abuse presented an equally thorny problem for many jails, said Kubiak. “Most jails have little therapy or protocols for inmates suffering withdrawals,” she said. “Some just hand out blankets and Gatorade and think that’s enough.” Kubiak concludes: “As the study proves, when we simply lock up mentally ill or addicted individuals with no real plan to get them help, we’re only prolonging and exacerbating problems that we have the tools to effectively address.”  
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It's time to name a building or park after trailblazing Detroiter Maryann Mahaffey

It is time to recognize former Detroit City Council President Maryann Mahaffey for her 50-plus years of service to the city. As daughter, former students and mentees of Maryann, we are calling on the City of Detroit and Wayne State University to memorialize her through the naming of building, park and/or memorial garden. Maryann served 12 years as a city council president and 32 years as a member. She was also an author, educator, civil rights activist, volunteer and political leader at local, state, national and international levels for nearly 60 years, putting into action her deep commitment to solving critical social issues. Before her tenure on Detroit City Council, she served as program director of Brightmoor Community Center where she organized the first welfare rights group in Michigan. At city council, her lengthy list of accomplishments on behalf of people most in need includes developing the first Rape Crisis Center within the Detroit Police Department, chairing the Detroit City Council Housing Task Force and enacting legislation to ensure safety for homeless families and protect renters, passing laws establishing child care facilities in neighborhoods, prioritizing residents and neighborhoods over corporate interests, and establishing the first ever city-level task force led by residents with disabilities.