U-M in Ann Arbor Partners with Harvard University to Address Economic Mobility, Opioid Crisis


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The University of Michigan and Harvard have partnered to combat poverty in Detroit and the opioid crisis nationwide.

Photo courtesy of University of Michigan

The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor Wednesday announced it has partnered with Harvard University on the Equality of Opportunity Project, an effort to spur economic mobility and reduce poverty in Detroit, as well as combine resources in response to the national opioid crisis. 

“Our new partnership seeks to devise the best solutions to two of society’s biggest challenges,” says Mark Schlissel, president of U-M. “By uniting community partners, policymakers, and top researchers in a sustained collaboration, we are creating a critical mass of expertise that has tremendous potential to achieve lasting positive impact.”

The project is led by Harvard faculty members Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren, Brown University’s John Friedman, and U-M’s Poverty Solutions initiative, led by Luke Shaefer, U-M faculty member and Poverty Solutions director.

The universities will work with the city of Detroit and local partners to create a plan to identify interventions for improving the livelihoods of low-income Detroit residents by complementing, supporting, and strengthening neighborhood revitalization, housing affordability, and youth-focused initiatives previously announced and currently implemented by Mayor Mike Duggan’s office.

The collaboration was implemented less than a year after U-M and Detroit announced the Detroit Partnership on Economic Mobility, a four-year agreement in which U-M will provide up to $500,000 in resources each year to support action-based partnerships between university experts and city leaders focused on economic mobility and poverty alleviation. U-M’s Poverty Solutions initiative was created in 2016. The Harvard team will provide its latest insights from big data and bring new perspectives.

Lawrence Bacow, Harvard University president, is scheduled to speak at Detroit Homecoming, an annual event that welcomes high-profile ex-Detroiters to their hometown. Bacow grew up in Pontiac. He was named the 29thpresident of Harvard in February and took office this summer.

“I am delighted that Harvard will be partnering with one of the country’s leading public research universities to make progress on issues that are among the most pressing of our time,” says Bacow. “Our teams will bring research-led insights to the issues of economic mobility and the opioid crisis, and working with Mayor Duggan and his team, seek to translate those insights into action.

“I am also excited to further deepen Harvard’s work in Michigan, where we will engage with local partners, contribute to solutions, and learn from collaborators in Detroit and beyond.”

The universities also announced plans to convene cross-disciplinary experts and practitioners from government, medical, public health, criminal justice, policy, and other fields to address the growing opioid epidemic across the country. The collaboration on the epidemic will kick off with two major policy summits – one in Michigan and one in Massachusetts. The first of the joint summits could be scheduled for as soon as this winter.

The summits will convene policymakers from Michigan and Massachusetts and across the institutions to share best practices and solutions regarding prescribing, prescription drug monitoring, drug overdose detection, access to treatment, and criminal justice.

The summits will continue U-M’s work in combatting the epidemic. Opioid Solutions, a resource developed by the U-M Office of Research, Injury Prevention Center, and Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, serves as a central hub for U-M research, educational activities, and community outreach related to opioids. The network draws on nearly 100 U-M faculty who research opioid misuse and overdose.

Massachusetts and Michigan have some of the nation’s highest rates of opioid-related deaths, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In 2016, Michigan experienced 18.5 opioid-related overdose deaths for every 100,000 residents, while Massachusetts experienced 29.7.

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