opioids

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.

Fuse/Getty Images

A new report finds doctors in Kentucky diagnosed more cases of opioid addiction for people with private insurance than any other state in 2016.

 

The report is by Amino, a health-care transparency company that aims to estimate the costs of care. The Courier-Journal reports 23 of every 1,000 Kentuckians were diagnosed with an opioid use disorder in 2016. Nationally, 1.4 million privately insured patients were diagnosed with opioid use disorder--that’s six times more than in 2012.

GOP's Health Care Rollback Collides with the Opioid Epidemic

Jun 20, 2017
Flickr/Creative Commons/Dimitris Kalogeropoylos

The Republican campaign to roll back former President Barack Obama's health care law is colliding with the opioid epidemic. Medicaid cutbacks would hit hard in states deeply affected by the addiction crisis and struggling to turn the corner, according to state data and concerned lawmakers in both parties.

The central issue is that the House health care bill would phase out expanded Medicaid, which allows states to provide federally backed insurance to low-income adults previously not eligible. Many people in that demographic are in their 20s and 30s and dealing with opioid addiction. Dollars from Washington have allowed states to boost their response to the crisis, paying for medication, counseling, therapy and other services.

Sts. Mary & Elizabeth Hospital

Amid the opioid epidemic in Kentucky, hospitals say overdoses have strained emergency rooms.

Kentucky hospital officials told the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer that drug overdose cases require intervention and critical care, tying up resources.

The opioid crisis hasn't hit western Kentucky's Daviess County, where methamphetamine is still the dominant street drug, as hard as the rest of the state. Dr. Charles Hobelmann, an emergency department physician at Owensboro Health Regional Hospital, said the frequency of opioid overdoses is increasing, however.

The state of Ohio has sued five major drug manufacturers for their role in the opioid epidemic. In the lawsuit filed Wednesday, state Attorney General Mike DeWine alleges these five companies "helped unleash a health care crisis that has had far-reaching financial, social, and deadly consequences in the State of Ohio."

Named in the suit are:

  • Purdue Pharma
  • Endo Health Solutions
  • Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and subsidiary Cephalon
  • Johnson & Johnson and subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals

Ashton Marra, WVPB

Trump administration officials have been visiting parts of the country affected by the opioid addiction crisis, including the Ohio Valley region. The administration called it a “listening tour,” and they got an earful in events marked by protests and controversies.

Some people working to combat the epidemic in the region say they’re concerned about the potential effects of the administration’s approach, including proposed health care changes and a possible return to harsher criminal prosecutions for drug charges.

Last October then-candidate Donald Trump laid out his plan to tackle the opioid epidemic. In a campaign event he focused on stopping the flow of drugs, issuing harsher trafficking penalties, and supporting addiction treatment.


Addiction experts are up in arms over remarks by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price in which he referred to medication-assisted treatment for addiction as "substituting one opioid for another."

Nearly 700 researchers and practitioners sent a letter Monday communicating their criticisms to Price and urging him to "set the record straight."

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.

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.


Friends of Sinners

A faith-based addiction recovery program in Owensboro broke ground on a new residence for women this week. 

The new facility being built by the group “Friends of Sinners” is in response to a growing demand in the region.

Friends of Sinners Executive Director Joe Welsh says the group already operates five residential sites for men and women in Daviess County.  He says there’s been a trend since the group opened its first women’s residence in 2011.

“One of the things that we’ve noticed in Owensboro, in Daviess County, is that there’s a big need for beds for women. We just wanted to target that and try to increase the number of beds Owensboro has for ladies.”

Alexandra Kanik

The opioid epidemic is on the agenda for political campaigns from the presidential race down to the local level in the Ohio Valley region. Election Day could shape the response to the crisis in states with some of the nation’s highest rates of addiction and overdoses.

Pat Fogarty, Director of Business Development and Mission Advancement at The Healing Place treatment center in Louisville said he’s seen the political discussion about addiction change for the better.

“There’s less stigma around addiction by the way it’s been approached by our leadership,” he said. “That needs to continue to snowball for the future and not be put on the backburner.”

Addiction specialists say that while they’ve seen progress, there is still need for treatment resources, prevention programs, and aid for law enforcement across the region. They hope candidates in this year’s election cycle understand those needs.

Aaron Payne | Ohio Valley ReSource

The sound of sirens in Cabell County, West Virginia, has a good chance of indicating an overdose these days.

The county’s Emergency Medical Service had responded to 622 overdose calls this year as of September 24, according to ES Director Gordon Merry. Last year it was more than 900 overdoses, which surpassed the total of the previous three years combined.

The county received national attention in August after responding to 26 ODs in just four hours.

“That many overdoses in that short of time was a challenge,” Merry said. “It just took us off guard there.”

All 26 victims that night survived, thanks in part to the medication naloxone. Naloxone, also known by its brand name NARCAN, is becoming more a part of everyday life due to the epidemic that’s gripped the Ohio Valley. The life-saving drug is a welcome addition for emergency responders but they caution that it is no silver bullet for the addiction crisis.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Dimitris Kalogeropoylos

Louisville has been chosen for a federal pilot program aimed at attacking the city’s heroin and prescription opioid problem.

The program, led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, is called the “360 Strategy.” It takes a multi-faceted approach to the problem and will involve law enforcement, medical and public health organizations and service groups.

It will include the formation of a Heroin Investigation Team, made up of Louisville Metro Police detectives and DEA agents.

U.S. Attorney John Kuhn said the team will investigate overdoses as crime scenes. Dealers whose drugs cause overdoses will be prosecuted in federal court and could go to prison for 20 years to life without parole, he said.

“Today, we have a message for heroin dealers,” Kuhn said. “You are killing people in this city, and we cannot allow this to continue.”

The Washington Post/Getty Images

Many people struggling with opioid addiction can't find a doctor to provide medication-assisted treatment, even though it's highly effective. One reason could be that doctors who are qualified to prescribe the medication typically treat just a handful of patients.

Researchers at the RAND Corporation looked at pharmacy records from the seven states with the most doctors approved to prescribe buprenorphine, which helps people manage cravings and avoid withdrawal. They found 3,234 doctors who had prescribed the drug, also known as Suboxone, to new patients from 2010 to 2013. The median number of patients by a doctor treated each month was 13. About half of the doctors treated 4 to 30 patients; 22 percent treated less than 4; 20 percent treated 31 to 75.

"We were really surprised," says Dr. Bradley Stein, a psychiatrist and lead author of the study, which was published Tuesday in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association. "We found that only about 10 percent of doctors were what we would call heavy prescribers, with more than 75 patients a month."

Only a fraction of the 4 million people thought to abuse prescription painkillers or heroin in the U.S. are getting medication-assisted treatment.

Ryland Barton

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch warned high school students about the dangers of heroin and opioid abuse at an assembly in Richmond on Tuesday.

The visit was part of an Obama administration initiative to educate people about heroin and prescription painkiller abuse.

Lynch is the nation’s top law enforcement official, but she said the heroin and opioid problem isn’t just a law enforcement crisis, it’s a moral one.

“…A test of whether we here in the United States can protect our children, our friends, our neighbors, our fellow citizens from the scourge of addiction,” Lynch said.

Heroin overdoses have surged recently in Kentucky — reports from Northern Kentucky, Louisville, Lexington and smaller cities like Mt. Sterling have linked the spike to doses of heroin laced with fentanyl, a potent pain killer.

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