Crisis Intervention: Grants fund new opioid treatment options at Munson Healthcare

Thanks to a series of grants received by Munson Healthcare over the past year, northern Michigan will soon have a new set of options available for individuals struggling with opioid abuse and addiction.

The first grant comes from the Michigan Opioid Partnership, a new public-private collaborative whose members include the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, and numerous leading healthcare nonprofits in the state. In June, Munson Medical Center became one of the first hospitals in the state to receive grant funding from the Michigan Opioid Partnership along with Beaumont Hospital in the Detroit area. The grants, each valued at $400,000 for two years, are intended to fund new pilot programs for an opioid use disorder treatment strategy called medication-assisted treatment (MAT).

The CDC defines MAT as “a treatment combining the use of medications (methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone) with counseling and behavioral therapies.”

Munson’s program will target patients who come to the emergency room seeking or in need of treatment for an opioid use disorder.

“If a patient comes in overdosed, or if someone comes into the emergency department and they are just ready for treatment, we can provide the crisis intervention and treatment starting points for them,” said Munson Medical Center’s Christina Eickenroth of the new program.


Eickenroth is a registered nurse who serves as the hospital’s clinical coordinator on opioid issues. She is spearheading the implementation of the new MAT program, which will pair Munson’s emergency department with the resources of numerous community partners to give opioid patients faster access to better care.

One part of the new MAT program – and a piece that will be funded by the Michigan Opioid Partnership grant – is the employment of a new peer recovery coach. The recovery coach is the first resource that an opioid use disorder patient will have if they come to the emergency department and wish to learn about treatment options.

Eickenroth says there have traditionally been “lots of barriers to treatment” for those struggling with opioid addiction, to the point where many individuals never seek out the help they need. The peer recovery coach will be able to advise the patient on the treatment options that are available to them and then work to coordinate future care.

Future care may include outpatient treatment with one of Munson’s MAT partners, which include local organizations like Traverse Health Clinic, Addiction Treatment Services, and Northwest Michigan Health Services, along with Munson’s own outpatient Behavioral Health Services clinic. Eickenroth says each outpatient partner has agreed to be a part of Munson’s new program and is ready to start accepting patient referrals as soon as the new program launches.

“The goal is to set the patient up with everything they need before they leave the hospital,” Eickenroth said. “They’ll have their appointment with an outpatient provider. If they choose to go the medication route, we can start the medication and provide it until the patient gets to their appointment. And once the patient does see their outpatient provider – whoever that ends up being –hopefully the plan of care is set up to be successful.”

The Michigan Opioid Partnership plans to give out additional hospital grants for similar MAT programs “in the coming months.” For now, Munson and Beaumont are the first and only hospitals in the state to offer this type of treatment program. Eickenroth says MAT programs are somewhat common elsewhere in the United States, particularly on the coasts, but that there haven’t been any in Michigan up until now.

Munson applied for the grant and was chosen out of an undisclosed number of Michigan hospitals.

“I think they picked us because we are a system hospital, which means if this pilot program is successful, we have a lot of room to expand it,” Eickenroth said.

The plan right now is for the MAT program to launch at Munson Medical Center sometime in November. First, nurses and physicians must complete 24 hours of education to obtain a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) waiver in order to prescribe medications for opioid use disorder. Eickenroth says Munson’s emergency department providers are currently working through the waiver process and obtaining the necessary education for the MAT program.

In addition to the Michigan Opioid Partnership grant, Munson received another grant late last year for the development of a Community Opioid Recovery Expansion (CORE) program in the northern Michigan region. The $1.5 million grant came from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, a federal agency that is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Munson stated last year that the new CORE program would “focus on expanding outreach to pregnant women with opioid use disorder and people with substance use disorder who present in crisis to local emergency departments.”

Munson has also taken on a number of other initiatives to curb the opioid crisis in northern Michigan. Hospitals across the Munson Healthcare network have made an active effort to cut down on the number of opioid pills being prescribed in their emergency rooms. In April of this year, Munson reported that those efforts had resulted in a nearly 75% reduction in emergency room opioid prescriptions compared to 18 months earlier.

Last year, Munson also installed new MedSafe medication disposal bins at all system hospitals. As of June 30 of this year, patients had already used those bins to dispose of “nearly 1,800 pounds of medical waste” – much of it unused opioid medications. Eickenroth says that, before those bins were installed, there were few options available in northern Michigan for disposing of opioids in a safe and secure fashion.

“It used to be that the jail was really the only place you could take your medication to dispose of it,” Eickenroth said. “Now, there are a lot more options.”

Statistics on Opioid Crisis

  • More than 70,000 people in the United States died from drug overdoses in 2017. Of those overdoses, nearly 68% were linked to prescription or illicit opioids. (CDC)
  • Each day, nearly 130 people in the United States die from opioid overdoses. (National Institute on Drug Abuse)
  • Michigan recorded 2,033 fatalities due to opioid-related overdoses in 2017. That figure puts Michigan’s rate of opioid-related fatalities at 21.2 deaths per 100,000 persons – higher than the national rate of 14.6 deaths per 100,000. The state with the highest rate of deaths per 100,000 is West Virginia, with 49.6. (National Institute on Drug Abuse)
  • Michigan tracked a 55.7% increase in prescription opioid deaths between 2012 (378 fatalities) and 2016 (678 fatalities). The number declined to 633 fatalities in 2017 – Michigan’s first decrease in prescription opioid deaths since 2011. (National Institute on Drug Abuse)
  • Between 1999 and 2016, the number of opioid overdose fatalities in Michigan increased by more than 17 times – from 99 to 1,699. (
  • The five-county area that Munson Medical Center serves (which includes Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, and Leelanau) has an age-adjusted opioid overdose death rate of 17.1 per 100,000 persons. (CDC)
  • Of the patients treated for opioid use disorders at Munson Healthcare hospitals, statistics predict that nearly 40% will return to the emergency department within 90 days.
  • Munson recorded 551 patient emergency room visits for opioid overdoses during its 2019 fiscal year, down from 715 opioid overdose patients the previous fiscal year.
  • In Michigan, there were 11.4 million prescriptions written for opioid painkillers in 2015 alone – a rate of approximately 115 prescriptions per 100 people. (Michigan Automated Prescription System)
  • The total “economic burden” of the opioid crisis in the United States is estimated at $78.5 billion annually – a number that includes healthcare costs, addiction treatment, criminal justice proceedings, and lost productivity. (CDC)