Washtenaw Opioid Summit remembers those lost, celebrates hope and recovery

The WHI’s Opioid Project partnered with the Washtenaw Recovery Advocacy Project (WRAP) to bring back the annual Washtenaw County Opioid Summit on August 31 and September 1. 

With International Overdose Awareness Day falling on August 31st, as well as National Recovery Month kicking off in September, the Opioid Project wanted to remember those lost, without stigma, while celebrating and promoting the hope for recovery in our community.

This year’s summit drew 141 participants representing over 60 different organizations from around the state.

Building off past summits, this year’s event addressed a range of subjects critical to the continued fight to address the harms associated with opioid and other substance use—including the intersection between social determinants of health (SDoH) needs and substance use and the importance of person-centered approaches to recovery. 

“We wanted to demonstrate how our response to substance use disorder and co-occurring mental health issues takes so much more than addressing them in a treatment setting,” notes Matt Hill, WHI project manager and Opioid Project facilitator. “Addressing social needs is equally important in helping people mitigate the harmful effects of substance use.”

This year’s summit kicked off with a keynote presentation titled “Developing culturally targeted efforts for communities of color in impacting the opioid crisis,” presented by Dr. Katrina Wyche. Dr. Wyche illustrated how social and cultural context and intersections have shaped people’s experiences with substance use in their communities, which need to be understood and acknowledged when looking to address the personal, social, and structural harms that have stemmed from substance use.

On the second day, the keynote presentation was prefaced with a story of recovery from Kayla Harding, a peer-recovery coach at Home of New Vision. Kayla shared how she was able to address the emotional pain and trauma that led to substance use while finding strength and purpose in recovery. Today, Kayla uses her story and experience to help others in their path to healing.

Following Kayla’s story, Dr. Debra Pinals presented her keynote titled “Addressing opioid use disorder from a systems perspective: equitable crisis response, engagement, and care”. Dr. Pinals stressed the importance of re-envisioning how we respond to people in a mental health or substance use related crisis, needing the right people, with the right training, at the right time to promote better outcomes.  

Over the two-day event, smaller group breakout sessions followed the keynote presentations and addressed topics including:

  • Engaging pregnant and parenting people who have SUD
  • Principles and practices of unarmed community response
  • Behavioral health workforce retention
  • State and local opioid use surveillance and vulnerability data
  • Emergency department resident curriculum for prescribing medications for opioid use disorder
  • Military cultural competency and its intersection with SUD

Hosting the summit in a virtual environment allowed the group to better utilize technology to help fight the opioid epidemic. By visiting the WHI Opioid Project’s video library,” anyone can access the summit recordings along with short educational seminars that the Opioid Project has organized in the past.

To learn more about the summit, or participate in planning future summits, please contact Matt Hill, Washtenaw Health Initiative Project Manager, at hillmat@med.umich.edu