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$350,000 in Grants Awarded to Advance Racial Equity and Harm Reduction in Michigan as Overdose Deaths Soar in Communities of Color

Meet the Seven Local Detroit and Flint Community Organizations Funded to Tackle Overdose Crisis and Support Community Response

May 3, 2021 (Michigan) The United States is in the midst of the worst overdose crisis in its history, with more than 87,000 lives lost in the last year alone and rising sharply for Black Americans. Michigan experienced more than 2,300 overdose deaths in 2019, and recent data suggest that COVID-19 has caused a surge of overdoses and further exacerbated racial disparities in rates of overdose death.

To address the surge in overdose deaths in communities of color, public health organization Vital Strategies is providing grant funding to community-based organizations and partnerships led by Black, Indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC) to address racial harms caused by discriminatory enforcement of drug laws, and collaborating with Yet Once More, a Detroit-based anti-racism firm to provide technical assistance. The community-based projects focus on advancing racial equity and harm reduction in southeastern Michigan, home to the state’s largest BIPOC communities and where the numbers of overdose deaths are highest in the state. 

The projects advance principles of harm reduction, destigmatize responses to people who use drugs, and promote racial justice and health equity in community and institutional responses to drug use. A total of seven grantees, from faith-based coalitions, to community organizers, were selected  and funded for a six-month period to launch and lead the work in local communities.  Projects include community training and education, community organizing and base-building, system or policy assessments, capacity building, direct service provision, and other innovative strategies. 

“Whether it is a global pandemic of COVID-19 or a national opioid epidemic, we know that communities of color are always hardest hit,” said Aisha Benton, Founder, and CEO of Yet Once More. “We feel incredibly fortunate to directly partner with these phenomenal organizations who are already at work in communities of opportunity during Michigan’s critical hour. Our unique approach elevates a historical understanding as necessary to connect the dots on our collective journey toward racial equity.”

“Responses to the overdose crisis must address the intersections of race, gender, and class to eliminate the systemic health disparities impacting Black, Indigenous and other people of color who use drugs,” said Julie Rwan, Senior Manager at Vital Strategies. “Through these grants, we are providing direct support to BIPOC leaders engaging in community-led, intersectional responses focusing on the structural roots of overdose.” 

Grants of $50,000 each are being awarded to the following organizations: 

·         Abundant Community Recovery Services: Detroit-based recovery-oriented services provider expanding mobile harm reduction unit services and access to peer recovery coaches 

·         Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote MI: Statewide community organizers with a focus on Southeastern Michigan to increase awareness through community education and outreach, social media campaign, and direct services for people who use drugs 

·         Detroit Action: Detroit-based community organizers developing harm reduction advocacy capacity through story collection, earned media, voter registration, advocacy, and base-building activities 

·         Eastside Community Network: Detroit-based community services organization spearheading an Overdose Prevention Committee to increase awareness about harm reduction as well community education and engagement and providing referrals to direct services for people who use drugs 

·         Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength (MOSES): Detroit-based interfaith organization expanding their focus to train organizers with lived experience with substance use, to organize and hold listening sessions in the community to inform and develop recommendations for political leaders and lawmakers 

·         Ruth Ellis Center: Detroit-based direct services organization serving LGBTQI youth of color building capacity for harm reduction services by conducting focus groups to guide the design of programming as well as providing naloxone trainings and harm reduction services 

·         Wellness Services: Flint-based syringe services program expanding reach to BIPOC communities through media campaign on public transit ads to address disparities in accessing harm reduction services 

Yet Once More brings over a decade of experience working with BIPOC communities to this partnership with Vital Strategies to conduct local outreach to BIPOC-led and partnered organizations. The group will facilitate grantee work groups focused on racial equity and harm reduction.  

About Vital Strategies 
Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. We work with governments and civil society in 73 countries to design and implement evidence-based strategies that tackle their most pressing public health problems. Our goal is to see governments adopt promising interventions at scale as rapidly as possible.  

To find out more, please visit www.vitalstrategies.org or Twitter @VitalStrat

About Vital Strategies’ Overdose Prevention Program  
In November 2018, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced a $50 million investment to address the country’s overdose crisis. The initiative—a first-of-its-kind partnership between Vital Strategies, Pew Charitable Trusts, CDC Foundation, and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health—is helping up to 10 states implement solutions over three years to strengthen and scale up evidence-based, data-driven interventions to reduce risks of overdose and save lives. 

About Yet Once More Yet Once More is an anti-racism consulting firm with the mission to eradicate racism in individuals, families, organizations, and institutions. Their work is centered on re-educating organizations and leaders about the intersection of race and oppression in modern U.S. public policy. To learn more and get in touch, please visit www.yetoncemore.com.

Media Contacts  
Tony Newman 
tnewman@vitalstrategies.org; 646-335-5384 

Christina Honeysett 
choneysett@vitalstrategies.org; 914-424-3356