opioid epidemic

Mary Meehan

Days after sending mixed signals on his response to the nation's opioid crisis, President Donald Trump said Thursday that he plans to declare a national emergency to better address the epidemic.

“We’re going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort, and a lot of money on the opioid crisis," the president said, announcing that his administration was drafting the paperwork to make the emergency declaration official.


J. Tyler Franklin

Paramedics and police are already in the hotel room when Kyle Simpson walks in.

“What happened?” he asks.

A 37-year-old man in the room is barely conscious--just revived by the overdose reversal medication NARCAN.

Law enforcement officers survey the scene. They’ve found more heroin “rocks” on a table. One officer interviews a crying woman who was with the man when he stopped breathing.


flickr creative commons Chris Potter

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear announced on Wednesday that he is working with attorneys general from across the country to investigate whether drug manufacturers contributed to the opioid epidemic “by illegally marketing and selling opioids,” according to his office.

The action follows a suit filed in May by Ohio’s attorney general.

In Kentucky, there were more than 1,248 overdose deaths in the first half of 2016, a 25 percent increase from 2014.

Mary Meehan

A new report shows Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana are among seven states with twice the national rate of Hepatitis C cases.

The Centers for Disease Control reported new cases of Hep C have increased nationwide by nearly 300 percent from 2010 to 2015. Hepatitis C is still associated with more deaths than 60 other diseases.

According to the Kentucky Department for Public Health, the state had the highest rate of new acute Hepatitis C infections from 2008 to 2015, with more than 1,000 cases. The CDC report said intravenous drug use is the primary risk factor for new infections.

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While the heroin epidemic continues to make news, prescription drug abuse is still in the forefront of the minds of Kentuckians. That’s according to a new poll out Tuesday from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

According to the poll, 1 in 3 people in Eastern Kentucky know someone who’s had problems as a result of prescription pain reliever abuse. That compares to 1 in 6 people in the same region knowing someone who’s abused heroin. In Louisville, 1 in 4 four people know someone who’s been addicted to heroin or prescription drugs.

“It started with the abuse of prescription opioids — opioid painkillers that were prescribed by doctors,” said Ben Chandler, president of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

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Pulaski County is getting a residential drug treatment center for women.

 

The 100 bed facility is one of the larger treatment centers in Kentucky and will only serve female patients. An opening date has not yet been set.

 

Kim Worley is the operations director at Adanta, a behavioral health service investing in the center. He said there’s a major need for drug treatment programs in the Somerset area.

“Our region of the state is one of the ones that's worst represented in terms of some of the statistics for these people dealing with these problems. And there was nothing down here for them,” Worley said.

He said the treatment that will be offered at the center has a solid track record of success.

Park Place Recovery Center for Women

Kentucky’s opioid addiction epidemic sometimes takes its toll on the most vulnerable in society – babies.

Now the healthcare services company LifeSkills is opening a new substance abuse treatment center in Scottsville. It will accept pregnant women, as well women with  infants up to 10 months old.

Geneva Bradshaw is program manager for Park Place Recovery Center for Women.

"We believe the addition of being able to bring their infants will definitely increase their motivation for wanting to get assistance and the help that they need.”

Bradshaw says pregnant women pose a major risk to their babies when use they opioids.

John Ted Dagatano

She asked to not be identified. And it’s understandable given the stigma attached to addiction. For this story, we’ll call her “Mary.”

Mary lives in eastern Kentucky and has struggled with an addiction that began with painkillers and progressed to heroin.

“As soon as I opened my eyes, I had to get it,” Mary said. “And even when I did get it, then I had to think of the next way that I was going to get.”

Mary was using when she learned she was pregnant with her first child. She sought treatment but the disease had a tight grip on her.

The child was born dependent on opioids and went through the pains of withdrawal shortly after delivery.

“To see that little boy go through that stuff, you’d think that I would, like, change my life around immediately but I didn’t,” Mary said. “I didn’t want to believe it. I was in complete denial that because of my choices, it was my fault that he was going through that.”

Kentucky’s Medicaid expansion has led to a dramatic increase in substance abuse treatment services. The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky has examined substance abuse services covered by Medicaid between 2014 and mid-2016.

 

The group’s report found that Medicaid beneficiaries received 740-percent more treatment services for substance abuse issues over that 30-month period. Before the Affordable Care Act in 2012, about 585-thousand Kentuckians lacked health insurance, and therefore had no coverage for drug and alcohol treatment services.

Jeff Young

The Ohio Valley’s opioid epidemic has effects far beyond the individuals struggling through addiction, with families and children suffering as well. An organization that helps children in abuse cases now sees substance abuse as a leading contributor, and could be overwhelmed by the addiction crisis.

Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children --CASA for short-- is a nationwide organization in which community volunteers are designated by judges to serve as the voice for children involved in abuse and neglect cases.