During lockdowns, Michigan hired consulting firm that ‘turbocharged’ opioid crisis

McKinsey paid a $573 million settlement for its role in the opioid crisis. Why did the Whitmer administration pay it to advise on COVID-19 decisions?

Why did the state of Michigan give a consulting firm that authorities say “turbocharged” the opioid crisis an advisory role in setting COVID-10 policies? 

McKinsey & Company was sued by 47 states, including Michigan, for contributing to the opioid crisis. In Feb. 2021, it agreed to a $573 million settlement. Michigan got $19.5 million.

“When states began to sue Purdue’s directors for their implementation of McKinsey’s marketing schemes, McKinsey partners began emailing about deleting documents and emails related to their work for Purdue,” the attorney general’s office said in February 2021, when the settlement was announced.

McKinsey advised former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo when he was being criticized for possibly undercounting COVID-related deaths in nursing homes. Undercounted nursing home deaths have plagued Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration here in Michigan.

In June 2021 the Michigan Auditor General released a report on the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services response to COVID-19. The auditor’s office reported that the health department paid McKinsey $3.2 million for consulting services during the pandemic, and $1.8 million of it was unaccounted for.

The Auditor General said it needed further documentation and was not able to determine whether the spending was appropriate, adding that it was looking into the matter.

As Michigan Capitol Confidential has previously reported, McKinsey was performing work for the state without a contract, allowing both the state and the consulting firm to not mention the arrangement to media outlets. The Auditor General has not yet responded to a request for an update on its investigation.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy had used an open records request to ask the state for emails between the consulting firm and the health department. The state said the Mackinac Center had to pay $70,000 in fees, but negotiations brought the price down to $12,420.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has said that McKinsey advised opioid manufacturers on how to maximize their profits through bypassing pharmacy restrictions limiting high-dose prescriptions.

The state of Michigan allowed McKinsey ample decision-making power over 10 million people’s lives and livelihood. Emails between University of Michigan staff and the state, obtained by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, show the firm was instrumental in determining which businesses were essential, and which were forced to shut down.

Due to Whitmer’s lockdowns and the pandemic, 24% of Michigan’s small and medium-size businesses closed permanently. Some 32% of Michigan businesses faced government-mandated closures in 2020, according to a government survey.

Emails between Robert Gordon, then-director of the state health department, and a McKinsey employee, reveal that the company was advising the state as it dealt with allegations it had not counted 600 COVID-related deaths in nursing homes in March and April of 2020.

It was this undercounting that led reporter Charlie LeDuff to investigate numbers concerning Michigan’s nursing home deaths. Mackinac Center Legal Foundation represented LeDuff in a public records lawsuit for nursing home data.

Michigan is still trying to recover from Whitmer’s lockdowns and the pandemic. Schools were closed to in-person learning for prolonged periods, resulting in large scale academic setbacks that will cost millions to recover. Businesses were lost.

People suffered financially and mentally as a result of decisions made by bureaucrats, advised by consultants.

Jamie A. Hope is assistant managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential. Email her at

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.