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New county-level index tracks substance use vulnerability in Michigan

pills in hand
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Using the new Michigan Substance Use Vulnerability Index, health officials can study a community’s access to resources and social factors that determine an individual’s overall health.

The state of Michigan is using a new index to study substance use disorder at the county level.

Until now, the state measured the severity of substance use through county mortality rates.

Now, with the state’s Substance Use Vulnerability Index, health officials can study a community’s access to resources and social factors that determine an individual’s overall health.

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Opioids and Emerging Drugs unit manager Rita Seith says reliance on mortality data alone doesn't explain why deaths occurred.

“And it doesn’t tell you, well what can we do about it?” Seith said. “One of the great things about this index is that it provides some really great opportunities to start conversations.”

Seith hopes the index will foster more cooperation between counties.

“What one county might need, another may already be doing a pretty good job in,” she added. “So, we’re hoping to encourage more detailed, tailored conversations around that.”

The most recent data shows there were 1,493 overdose fatalities in Michigan from January to July 2022.

Kevin Lavery is a general assignment reporter and occasional local host for Morning Edition and All Things considered.
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