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As COVID pushes overdose crisis to new heights, Michigan Harm Reduction Project empowers communities to respond with $500,000 in new grants

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                        


DETROIT – Today, as part of the Michigan Opioid Partnership activities, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, in partnership with global public health organization Vital Strategies, announced grants to ten community foundations located throughout Michigan to reduce overdose deaths by expanding harm reduction services.

Even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the nation’s overdose epidemic continues to be a leading cause of death for Americans. More than 72,000 Americans lost their lives due to overdoses in 2019, making it the worst year in the nation’s decades-long drug overdose epidemic. Overdose fatalities in Michigan are among the highest in the nation, behind just nine other states. Preliminary data from 2020 suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the trend, both locally and nationally.

“For many communities, COVID-19 has turned a dire situation into a desperate one,” said Mariam Noland, President of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. “Community foundations like ours are well positioned to translate these funds into life-saving resources and support for individuals who truly need it. As we work to address this public health issue in Michigan, we are pleased to partner with a global public health leader in Vital Strategies, as well as our fellow community foundations to create immediate and effective impact.”

“Overdoses are increasing in Michigan as COVID-19 amplifies the risks shaped by social isolation, racism, and economic decline,” said Julie Rwan, Senior Manager of the Overdose Prevention Program at Vital Strategies. “Harm reduction strategies like naloxone distribution, syringe services programs, and partnerships with first responders are critical overdose prevention and life-saving measures. The new funding will invest in community-rooted harm reduction programs that are committed to engaging with and caring for the health and wellbeing of people who use drugs.”

Vital Strategies’ Overdose Prevention Program has partnered with the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan and the Council of Michigan Foundations (CMF) to form the Michigan Harm Reduction Project and fund local groups expanding harm reduction services in their jurisdictions. Vital Strategies is the lead partner in the Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative to tackle the overdose epidemic and reduce deaths in states where fatalities are among the highest in the country.

The state of Michigan’s nonpartisan Governor’s Office of Foundation Liaison (OFL) and CMF convened an early conversation about this opportunity with health funders. CMF then connected Vital Strategies with the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan due to the organization’s history with the Michigan Opioid Partnership. The Community Foundation is granting the funds throughout Michigan.

“We are grateful to the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan for their leadership in this project and for Vital Strategies’ support in connecting Michigan community foundations with funds to expand critical, life-saving services in our state,” said Kyle Caldwell, President and CEO of CMF. “Community philanthropy continues to lead through innovative collaboration and powerful partnerships to ensure all in Michigan may thrive.”

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

Battle Creek Community Foundation – to support the Calhoun Opioid Harm Reduction Project, which will focus on expanded and new services for an opioid overdose education and naloxone distribution program across Calhoun County.

Berrien Community Foundation – for a collaboration with Carol’s Hope, a drug crisis intervention center, to provide naloxone distribution and remote access to crisis intervention services to Berrien County.

Canton Community Foundation – to support Growth Works recovery expansion with local law enforcement and St. Mary Mercy Hospital to connect participants to community-based harm reduction services.

Community Foundation for Muskegon County – for Fresh Coast Alliance recovery coaches working within the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program in Muskegon County and serve as conduit to community-based services.

Community Foundation of Greater Flint – to support harm reduction outreach and syringe services in Flint and Genesee County, in partnership with Wellness AIDS Services.

Community Foundation of Monroe County – for a partnership with Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan to increase the naloxone distribution in Monroe County to people who use substances and their networks.

Fremont Area Community Foundation – to support implementation of harm reduction activities including syringe services through the Grand Rapids Red Project in Newaygo County.

Grand Haven Area Community Foundation – for implementation of harm reduction activities including syringe services and post overdose wellness checks across Ottawa County in partnership with the Grand Rapids Red Project and key community partners.

M&M Area Community Foundation – for development and resource expansion for public education and naloxone distribution and to support implementation of syringe services in Menominee County in partnership with Public Health, Delta & Menominee Counties.

Saginaw Community Foundation – to support naloxone distribution and harm reduction education in partnership with the police and EMS, to support planning of syringe services in partnership with Saginaw County Health Department and to provide community awareness through public art and educational materials in the city of Saginaw.

The series of community harm reduction grants is part of a broader $10 million initiative that Bloomberg Philanthropies, the State of Michigan, and Vital Strategies announced in February 2020 to support a wide range of overdose prevention projects throughout the state.

The grants also tie in to the Michigan Opioid Partnership (MOP). Launched in 2018, the MOP is a public-private collaborative, administered by the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, which includes the state of Michigan and key nonprofit funders united under the mission to decrease Michigan opioid overdoses and deaths through prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and sustained recovery. 


About Vital Strategies

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

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, data-driven interventions to reduce risks of overdose and save lives.

About the Council of Michigan Foundations

The Council of Michigan Foundations leads, strengthens and supports Michigan’s community of philanthropy, emboldening and equipping its members in the relentless pursuit of equitable systems, fortifying the field through public policy action, fostering the growth of current and future philanthropy leaders and advancing exemplary philanthropic practices and field expertise. For more information, visit

About the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan 
The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan is a full-service philanthropic organization leading the way to positive change in our region. As a permanent community endowment built by gifts from thousands of individuals and organizations, the Foundation supports a wide variety of activities benefiting education, arts and culture, health, human services, community development, and civic affairs. Since its inception, the Foundation has distributed more than $1.2 billion through more than 79,000 grants to nonprofit organizations throughout Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Monroe, Washtenaw, St. Clair, and Livingston counties. For more information, visit


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