LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — All month long – 6 news has been bringing you stories from our “Fighting Addiction: Heartbreak and Hope” series taking a closer look at the fight against opioid addiction in Michigan.

Michigan is slated to receive $1.45 billion over the next 18 years in order to abate the opioid crisis in Michigan. of the “opioid healing and recovery act” has already added $80 million into the pipeline.

But when it comes to putting those dollars to use, legislators have questions and have turned to institutions like Michigan State University for the answers.  

Dr. Cara Poland, Chair of Michigan’s Opioid Advisory Commission has questions about the money. “What is the opioid settlement, how can these dollars be used, what are appropriate uses of the funding to further reduce the opioid crisis in our nation,” Dr. Poland said.

As an associate professor at MSU and the Chair of Michigan’s Opioid Advisory Commission, Dr. Poland is leading the charge in educating our communities on how to use funds to better tackle drug addiction.  “Coming in and helping them with their needs assessment and making sure the community voice is part of that … currently, approximately 8 people die every day from an opioid overdose,” Dr. Poland told 6 News.

Faculty experts like Dr. Poland will collaborate with local governments to identify a list of priority communities to address the most critical populations across Michigan. Dr. Poland said it’s not only about dealing with ongoing drug abuse in our communities — but preventing it altogether. “Opioid risk reduction strategies, so ways we can minimize the amount opioids that were prescribing when people have a procedure or when people have a surgery, or when people have an injury,” Dr. Poland said.

This is what is happening at the sports medicine lab on MSU’s campus according to MSU’s Team Physician and orthopedic surgeon Toufic Jildeh who is paving the way in non-opioid pain relief. “Where I’ve worked I’ve noticed that more and more patients were on opioid pain medication, and managing that postoperative pain became more and more difficult,” Jildeh told 6 News. “Because the more opioids you take before surgery you need more afterward. So my team and i developed a protocol where patients can undergo surgery, and not use opioids whatsoever.”

Orthopedic surgeons are one of the highest prescribers of opioids, which can lead to opioid use disorder. Dr. Jildeh has seen its effects firsthand and has made a point to change that.  “I’ve had several patients who have had that issue,” Dr. Jildeh said. “It’s my goal for each patient in which I do surgery to have a personalized pain approach. By using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxers (and) nerve relaxers we’ve published data on all these findings and the results have been overwhelmingly positive.”

Dr. Jildeh added they found their slew of medications were able to control pain the same, if not better than opioids, but also said their work is not done, “I envision a future where we eliminate narcotic use, improve outcomes and help patients reach their goals quicker with less pain, without the addictive burden of opioids altogether.”

Dr. Jildeh said he hopes his findings and non-opioid-reliant practices can become more common not just in mid-Michigan — but across the nation.