Metro

Harvard, University of Michigan to partner on opioid, poverty research

Harvard, the University of Michigan, and the city of Detroit aim to spur economic mobility and reduce poverty in the city as well as address the opioid crisis, the schools said.
Elise Amendola/Associated Press/File 2012
Harvard, the University of Michigan, and the city of Detroit aim to spur economic mobility and reduce poverty in the city as well as address the opioid crisis, the schools said.

Harvard University is embarking on a new partnership with the University of Michigan to fight poverty in Detroit and share knowledge about combating opioid addiction, the schools announced Wednesday.

News of the partnership comes on the eve of Harvard president Lawrence Bacow’s return to his hometown of Pontiac, Mich., on Thursday. He is also set to speak Friday in Detroit at an event to welcome natives back to the region.

The new research partnership is between Harvard, the University of Michigan, and the city of Detroit and aims to spur economic mobility and reduce poverty in the city as well as address the opioid crisis, the schools said.

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In a press release from the university, Bacow said he is delighted to partner with Michigan to address what he called “issues that are among the most pressing of our time.”

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“Our teams will bring research-led insights to the issues of economic mobility and the opioid crisis, and working with Mayor [Mike] Duggan and his team, seek to translate those insights into action,” he said in the press release.

The project will be led by Harvard professors Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren as well as other faculty from Brown University and Michigan. It will build on other efforts by Duggan to focus on neighborhood revitalization, housing affordability, and youth.

“We are trying to build a comeback that includes all Detroiters, and we welcome the support of these two prestigious institutions in that effort,” the mayor said in the press release.

The collaboration will also build on work already underway by the Poverty Solutions team, a center at the University of Michigan that works with the city. Harvard faculty will provide expertise in big data, according to the schools.

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The researchers will use large data sets and statistics to identify neighborhoods of Detroit where children are succeeding or failing. They will match that data with other data to try to determine what is happening in the neighborhoods and the reasons behind children’s success or failure.

The collaboration also comes less than a year after the University of Michigan and the city of Detroit began a four-year program that will provide up to $500,000 to promote economic mobility and elimination of poverty.

The universities also plan to convene experts from many disciplines including government, medicine, public health, criminal justice, and policy to address the growing opioid epidemic in cities and rural parts of the country.

Harvard and the University of Michigan plan to hold two summits to share knowledge about what works in fighting addiction. The meetings will discuss best practices in prescribing, prescription drug monitoring, overdose detection, and access to treatment and criminal justice, according to the press release.

Harvard’s work on opioid addiction will be led by Dr. Mary Bassett, who was recently appointed director of the Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard at the T. H. Chan School of Public Health.

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According to Harvard, Massachusetts and Michigan have some of the nation’s highest rates of opioid-related deaths. Michigan saw 18.5 opioid-related overdose deaths for every 100,000 residents in 2016. For Massachusetts, the number was 29.7, according to Harvard.

Laura Krantz can be reached at laura.krantz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @laurakrantz.