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Harvard, Univ. of Michigan Partner to Address Economic Opportunity, Opioid Crisis

President Lawrence S. Bacow speaks at the 2018 Freshman Convocation.
President Lawrence S. Bacow speaks at the 2018 Freshman Convocation. By Timothy R. O'Meara
By Jamie D. Halper, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard and the University of Michigan will partner on initiatives and summits to address economic opportunity and the opioid epidemic, the universities announced jointly Wednesday.

The Equality of Opportunity Project, led by two Harvard professors, will work with the University of Michigan’s Poverty Solutions initiative on developing “interventions” in Detroit, Mich. regarding economic mobility. The schools will also plan two policy summits together on the national opioid crisis featuring experts in government, medicine, public health, and other fields, according to a press release.

The collaboration comes as University President Lawrence S. Bacow is scheduled to return to Michigan — his home state — this week to participate in a panel of high-profile former Detroit natives who have returned to the city for the program.

“I am delighted that Harvard will be partnering with one of the country’s leading public research universities to make progress on issues that are among the most pressing of our time,” Bacow said in the press release. “I am also excited to further deepen Harvard’s work in Michigan where we will engage with local partners, contribute to solutions and learn from collaborators in Detroit and beyond.”

The partnership will work with Detroit and its mayor, Mike E. Duggan, to develop and implement new programs on neighborhood revitalization, affordable housing, and youth-focused initiatives. University of Michigan’s Poverty Solutions initiative, created in 2016, seeks to reduce poverty in the United States, and the Equality of Opportunity Project studies the causes of economic success and failure across the country.

Duggan said in the press release that he is excited about the schools’ partnership.

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

The policy summits on the opioid epidemic — one of which could take place as early as this winter — will address issues including opioid prescriptions, drug overdose detection, access to treatment, and criminal justice, according to the press release.

Michigan associate professor Chad Brummett, the co-director of the Michigan Opioid Prescribing Engagement Network, will lead the University of Michigan’s end of the collaboration, while Mary T. Bassett, the newly appointed director of the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard, will head the effort from Harvard.

Bacow's trip to Michigan comes amid criticisms — including some from policymakers in Washington — that Harvard and its peer institutions are out of touch with the rest of the United States. Bacow, who took office in July, has pledged to counter this perception by traveling across the country to make the case for higher education.

—Staff writer Jamie D. Halper can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @jamiedhalper.

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