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PHOTOS: Senator Peters Visits Greater Flint Health Coalition, Highlights the Need to Extend Federal Program Supporting Youth Opioid Addiction Treatment

Peters Fighting to Protect Program He Established That Supports Adolescents Struggling with Opioid Addiction; Genesee County Holds Third Highest Opioid Death Rate in Michigan

FLINT, MI – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) held a roundtable at the Greater Flint Health Coalition today to hear firsthand from local health care leaders about their needs to address, prevent, and adequately treat opioid addiction in the Genesee County area. Peters highlighted the need to renew the federal program he established in 2018, called the Youth Prevention and Recovery Initiative, which provides grant funding to local health care providers to help expand access to opioid addiction treatment for adolescents. The program also provides grant funding to schools, community organizations, and others to help raise awareness of the risks of fentanyl use among youth.

“Opioid addiction has devastated communities in Michigan and across the country, and too many of those suffering are our young people,” said Senator Peters. “These are kids who should be going to school, spending time with their friends, and looking forward to their futures, but are instead in the throes of this disease. I’m grateful I had the opportunity to meet with local health care leaders to hear about their experience on the front lines of this epidemic. I’ll keep fighting to ensure resources remain available to provide Michiganders, especially our youth, with the treatment they need to get better.”

The authorization for Peters’ Youth Prevention and Recovery Initiative expired in September 2023. Peters is now fighting to ensure this critical resource remains available by passing the bipartisan SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Reauthorization Act which would extend numerous opioid prevention, education, and treatment programs, including Peters’ Youth Prevention and Recovery Initiative, to help tackle the ongoing opioid epidemic. These programs provide vital support to adolescents, families, care providers, and communities like those in Genesee County, which has the third highest opioid overdose death rate and the second highest burden for substance use disorder in Michigan, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Among others, Peters was joined by Greater Flint Health Coalition Director of Mental Health and Substance Use Initiatives Kelly Ainsworth, Director of Adult and Adolescent Outpatient Services at Flint Odyssey House, Jennifer Gerow, and Peer Recovery Coach at New Paths, Inc., Courtney Gillenwater. Gillenwater also serves on the Genesee County Quick Response Team which connects overdose survivors with harm reduction and treatment services immediately following an overdose and works to increase the number of individuals in post-overdose treatment.

“Young people are particularly vulnerable to opioid substance use disorder, and the Youth Prevention and Recovery Initiative would help bring assisted treatment for youth into our community,” said Kelly Ainsworth, Project Director of Mental Health & Substance Abuse at the Greater Flint Health Coalition. “We’re grateful for Senator Peters’ efforts to support this program, which could enable providers and organizations throughout our region provide this life-saving treatment to young people in need of help.” 

“Through both my work and personal experience with substance abuse, I know how important medicated assisted treatment can be for helping an individual through their recovery,” said Courtney Gillenwater, Peer Recovery Coach at New Paths, Inc. “Thank you Senator Peters for fighting to protect this program, which provides federal resources that give organizations like ours an opportunity to expand our treatment services to young people, helping to save more lives in our community.”

“We know medication assisted treatment is safe and effective, and being able to offer it to our youth could be a game changer for Genesee County,” said Jennifer Gerow, Director of Adult and Adolescent Outpatient Services at Flint Odyssey House. “Extending support for Senator Peters’ Youth Prevention and Recovery Initiative would not only help expand opportunities to provide prevention and comprehensive substance abuse treatment, but also raise awareness among our young people about the risks associated with opioid misuse.”


According to a 2018 study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), more than 695,000 American adolescents used opioids for nonmedical reasons, up by more than 400,000 since the last study was conducted in 2015. In December 2022, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that monthly drug overdose deaths nearly tripled among adolescents aged 10 to 19 years during the first 2 years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Michigan, deaths from opioid overdoses have increased roughly 18 times from 1999 – 2021. According to the CDC, Michigan has on average over 3,000 overdose deaths a year. The State of Michigan found that about 127,000 young people in Michigan have experienced a substance use disorder. Thirty-seven percent of those youth also identified having mental health concerns.

To download photos from the event, click here.