Congressman Andy Barr (R-KY) released a statement that not only highlighted how extreme the opioid epidemic is in Kentucky but also offered promise for the future of the Bluegrass State.
Kentucky will be receiving a whopping $31.2 million in funding to combat the opioid epidemic within the state. Congressman Barr stated, “with this investment, Kentucky will now have the resources it needs for local communities to better provide prevention, treatment, and recovery services to families struggling with opioid addiction”.
This funding is coming directly from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) State Opioid Response Grants, which were announced in mid-June. SAMHSA was able to provide these funds because of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which was signed into law earlier this year. This law, also known as H.R. 1625, has provided the biggest investment on record towards fighting the opioid epidemic that has claimed thousands of lives throughout the United States. Of the $1 billion that was approved in this act, 15% of it is going to states that have the largest deadly overdose rates. The state of Kentucky has the third highest rates of opioid overdoses amongst all 50 states in the country.
In addition to the $31.2 million that Kentucky has been given, the state also had $10.5 million provided to them through the 21st Century Cures Act, which was signed in December of 2017 and offers to fund for advancing treatment for opioid addictions.
With over $40 million going towards the opioid epidemic in Kentucky, Congressman Barr is prepared to put it to good use. He says, “This epidemic is a crisis that touches nearly every one of our lives – across all demographics, regions, and states. After meeting with many organizations and Kentuckians on the front lines, it was evident that more local resources were needed to respond to the growing and changing crisis and it’s why I have made it one of my top priorities in Congress.”
Kentucky’s Opioid Problem
Kentucky, as well as West Virginia and Ohio, are currently experiencing rates of opioid overdose deaths that are much higher than the national average. In fact, it is estimated that these rates are at least 1.5 times greater than the rest of the country, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. In Kentucky, 20 out of every 100,000 people die from opioid overdoses.
So, why are Kentuckians experiencing more overdose deaths than the rest of the country? There are countless issues that the people of Kentucky are facing that people of many other states are not. These issues include high prescription rates, socioeconomic challenges, and lack of emergency services.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the prescription rate in Kentucky was 97.2 in 2016, making it one of the top 10 states where prescription rates are extremely high, especially in comparison to other states.
The opioid epidemic developed because, in the late 1990’s, pharmaceutical companies assured healthcare providers that opioid-based medications like OxyContin and Vicodin had low potential for abuse. These providers then prescribed these medications with minimal caution, leading to the surge in opioid addictions that we have been seeing for almost a decade.
While there are several statewide laws put in place, such as only providing a three-day supply of opioid painkillers instead of a few weeks worth, there is still a multitude of cracks in the foundation when it comes to how health care providers are prescribing opioid medications. The main concern is that these providers are not utilizing prescription drug monitoring programs as they should, leading to increases in doctor shopping and inappropriate prescribing habits.
- Socioeconomic issues
As of 2016, the United States Census Bureau reported that the poverty rate within the United States was 12.7 percent. In Kentucky, however, 18.5% of people lived in poverty. The poverty line in Kentucky is $24,340 for a family of four.
Living in poverty or having grown up in it has proven to be one of the most common environmental causes of addiction, as struggling to make ends meet can place an extreme amount of stress on an individual. Low income can also result in poor healthcare, which means that even if someone becomes addicted to opioids, he or she is much less likely to reach out for treatment simply because he or she cannot afford it. Also, many people live in poverty due to unemployment. Currently, the unemployment rate in Kentucky is the same as throughout the rest of the United States — 4%. While not a staggering number, the 4% of Kentuckians that are unemployed are feeling the effects more than ever before, as the economy is still struggling to even itself out.
Since Kentucky is a rural state, they are automatically at a disadvantage for receiving fast emergency care. To put it simply, there are not as many services available throughout the state because of how widespread land is. Therefore, when someone is overdosing on opioids and an ambulance is called, it could take longer than average for EMT’s to reach the scene because services are so spread out. As a result, they sometimes cannot provide life-saving care because of how location impacts timing.
With issues as troubling as those that Kentuckians are facing, it is relieving to know that the country is paying attention and that a large amount of funding is being provided to help alleviate the opioid crisis in the state. In addition to focusing on using the money to help provide prevention services, treatment options, and recovery services, Congressman Barr provided an amendment to the Consolidated Appropriations Act, requesting an increase in funding for the High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Program ($280 million, to be exact).
No matter where you are or what you have, you deserve treatment that will help you put a stop to your opioid addiction and in turn, save your life.
Do not spend one more day of your life being addicted to opioids. Contact us right now to find services that can help you.
Chris Clancy is the in-house Content Manager for JourneyPure’s Digital Marketing team, where he gets to explore a wide variety of substance abuse- and mental health-related topics. He has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist and researcher, with strong working knowledge of hospital systems, health insurance, content strategy, and public relations. He lives in Nashville with his wife and two kids.