Flickr/Creative Commons/Eric Molina

Officials at the state and local levels are in discussions about offering hepatitis C testing at all county health departments.

Some local offices offered the tests last year as part of a pilot project, when Kentucky began to see a spike in hepatitis C cases related to intravenous drug use. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in May that Kentucky’s rate of hepatitis C is seven times higher than the national average.

Deputy Commissioner Kraig Humbaugh, with the Kentucky Department of Public Health, says increased screening opportunities would be a way for health and addiction experts to reach out to those who need help.

“Let’s say you are hepatitis C positive—that may influence you to then change your behaviors, so that you’re at less risk of spreading to others. So our goal is to try to get more people tested, to be aware of their status, and linked to treatment options before they develop severe problems.”

Humbaugh says there’s no timeline for having hepatitis C screenings in place at local health departments. But he says his office is receiving positive feedback from county health departments that want to make the screenings available.

Someone infected with hepatitis C can go years, or even decades, without showing symptoms. If untreated, the virus can lead to liver failure and death.

Hepatitis C infection is the number one cause of liver transplants in the U.S.

A drug that can reverse the effects of a heroin overdose will soon be available without a prescription in Kentucky.

The state Board of Pharmacy’s emergency regulation went into effect last week to allow pharmacists to dispense naloxone, a drug that’s already used in hospital emergency rooms and by law enforcement agencies.

Van Ingram, head of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, says the hope is to save people who can then be rehabilitated.

“Substance abuse treatment is the end-goal for all individuals who are addicted, but we can’t get them to substance abuse treatment if they aren’t alive.”

Naloxone can be administered by a needle injection, through an auto-injector, and through a intranasal device.

A bill passed this year by state lawmakers allows pharmacists to establish guidelines on how to prescribe the drug.

A drug roundup in Pulaski County is targeting lower-level dealers ahead of future efforts against higher-level offenders.

Forty-seven drug-related indictments with nearly 70 felony charges have been handed down this week by a local grand jury. Pulaski County Sheriff’s Deputy Karl Clinard says this week’s efforts by federal, state, county, and city law enforcement groups have been aimed at those selling prescription pills and methamphetamine, with a growing number of heroin dealers also targeted.

“The commonwealth of Kentucky is suffering a considerable amount of impact from heroin, and we’re trying to work on that. That’s a higher-level drug that we’re trying to incorporate into our round ups.”

Clinard says that information gained from this week’s arrests will be used to target higher-level drug traffickers in the Pulaski County region.

This week's roundup was a combined effort of the Pulaski County Sheriff's Office, the Lake Cumberland Area Task Force, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Kentucky State Police, Kentucky State Police Drug Enforcement/Special Investigations East, Kentucky Office of the Attorney General,  Somerset Police Department,  Burnside Police Department,  Science Hill Police Department, Ferguson Police Department and Eubank Police Department.

Kentuckians wanting to get rid of unused prescription medicines can drop them off this Saturday during a statewide “pill take back” program.

The partnership between Kentucky State Police and the Drug Enforcement Administration will include take-back locations at the KSP posts in Bowling Green, Columbia, Elizabethtown, and Henderson, as well as 12 other locations statewide.

Kentucky Researcher Creates Nasal Spray that Could Lower Number of Overdose Deaths

Aug 7, 2014

A nasal spray developed a Kentucky researcher is designed to reduce the number of heroin related overdoses. The invention by University of Kentucky pharmacy professor Daniel Wermeling has been fast-tracked by the Food and Drug Administration and is in its final round of clinical trials.

Wermeling’s goal was to create an easier way to administer the drug Naloxone, which can reverse potentially fatal heroin overdoses. He has been working on the nasal spray since 2009, with support from a $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, with additional funding from the Kentucky Science and Technology Corp.

If the F.D.A gives final approval to the product, it could be available by prescription as early as next year.

Wermeling believes the nasal spray will be a much easier way to treat patients, as opposed to injecting them with the drug.

Kentucky will receive over $1 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to combat prescription drug abuse.

The money will be spread out over three years and used to enhance the state’s prescription drug monitoring program. Kentucky has the third highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the nation, and has recently seen a surge in the number of deaths related to heroin.

The funding was announced Tuesday in Paintsville by CDC Director Thomas Frieden. He was joined by Rep. Hal Rogers, a Somerset Republic who represents the state’s 5th District. During his announcement, Frieden lauded efforts made by the commonwealth to crack down on the illegal prescription drug trade.

In recent years, state lawmakers have passed legislation cracking down on pill mills, which are clinics that abuse their prescription-writing authority for people seeking pain medication for recreational use. Kentucky also requires controlled substance prescribers to use KASPER, the state’s prescription monitoring program.

The CDC says the number of KASPER reports has more than tripled since those laws went into effect, and there has been a nine-percent decline in the amount of controlled substance dispensing in the commonwealth.

Attorneys and judges from across the state are gathering in Louisville to discuss applying new research in addiction and brain science to better treat offenders enrolled in Kentucky’s drug courts.

Kentucky Supreme Court Justice John Minton, a former drug court judge and Bowling Green native, says that the field is only recently beginning to understand the links between emotional and substance abuse.

“We’re beginning to understand more and more about what we call ‘co-occurrences,’ and that is, there is substance abuse, but there is also some other co-existing or co-occurring mental or emotional condition, and each feeds on the other," Minton said. "And the challenge in drug court was to identify what those were, and see how to treat what first.”

Kentucky’s drug courts serve 115 of the state’s 120 counties, and offer an alternative to incarceration, which the Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts says saves lives in addition to taxpayer money.

The number of overdose deaths related to heroin continues to climb in Kentucky.

A new report from the state’s Office of Drug Control Policy shows that while the number of total overdoses remained steady in 2013, deaths caused by heroin increased by more than 12 percent.

In 2012, 19.6 percent of drug related deaths recorded by the state were due to heroin. That number increased to 31.9 percent in 2013.

Overall, the number of drug deaths in Kentucky leveled off last year, increasing by only three from 2012.

Van Ingram, the Executive Director of Kentucky’s Office of Drug Control Policy, said one way to combat the rising number of heroin deaths would be to increase the availability of narcan, a drug used to halt the effects of opioid overdose. Narcan is currently found in emergency rooms and carried by paramedics.

“We’d like to see it in the hands of police officers, we’d like to see it in the hands of families of people who are at risk, and just as widespread as we can make it, because we can’t get people into treatment and we can’t help them turn their lives around once they’re lost,” Ingram told WKU Public Radio.

Pregnant women addicted to illegal narcotics or prescription pain pills could soon be jailed in Tennessee under a bill awaiting the governor's signature. The strict proposal enjoys bipartisan support — despite objections from doctors.

The number of drug-addicted babies in Kentucky who are hospitalized has increased significantly in a little more than a decade.

The Courier-Journal cited a recent report from the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center showing that the number has gone from 28 in 2000 to 824 in 2012.

Although a multi-pronged effort was launched last year to fight the rising number of addicted newborns, medical professionals say it's not enough. Treatment centers are struggling to stay open, there are waiting lists to get in, and too many babies are born struggling.

Preliminary figures in the state report suggested that number of newborns treated for addiction rose even further in 2013 to more than 900.