$32 Million to Be Used to Fight Heroin, Drug Abuse in Kentucky
Settlements with two pharmaceutical companies will be used throughout Kentucky to expand substance abuse treatment, including opiate additions (such as heroin), Attorney General Jack Conway announced Monday.
More than $32 million recovered in settlements with pharma giants Merck and GlaxoSmithKline will be used to fund the fight, Conway said at the news conference in Frankfort where he was joined by Governor Steve Beshear, First Lady Jane Beshear, and House Speaker Greg Stumbo.
"We've done a tremendous job in Kentucky working together to tackle the problem of prescription drug abuse from a law enforcement perspective," Conway said. "At the end of the day, we must increase access to treatment if we're going to stop the cycle of addiction. These settlement funds will expand treatment for youth and adults throughout the Commonwealth."
According to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Kentucky currently only has one-tenth of the treatment beds it needs. The settlement funds will help create a new treatment center for adults, treatment scholarships, a grant program for new juvenile treatment beds and/or centers, and expanded services for juveniles.
"Attacking prescription drug abuse demands a holistic strategy that includes robust treatment efforts. This expansion of treatment availability will make an incredible impact on individuals, families and communities suffering from the impact of substance abuse and addiction," said Gov. Beshear. "For thousands of Kentuckians, this expansion will offer an opportunity to restore their health and return to productive lives."
The settlement will provide $500,000 to complete the construction of a Recovery Kentucky Center in Ashland, Ky. Recovery Kentucky utilizes a peer-based model where addicts in different stages of recovery work together to get and stay sober. The Ashland facility will be the 17th center in the state, and will provide easier access to treatment for families in that region. The plan also provides $2.52 million in scholarships for individuals who seek treatment at Recovery Kentucky Centers, but who are not subject to the corrections system. Thirty scholarships will be awarded each year for two years for each of the 14 currently operational Recovery Kentucky Centers, making a total of 840 scholarships available over a two-year period.
"As chair of the Recovery Kentucky task force, I am pleased that these settlement funds will allow hundreds of Kentuckians to benefit from newly available scholarships and drug-free housing. Recovering from addiction is a process that intersects every part of a person's life, and effective treatment provides the tools to help them interact with others, keep a job and keep a roof over their heads," said Mrs. Beshear. "Through increased treatment options for juveniles, we can prevent these young people from carrying these crippling addictions into adulthood."
Over the next two years, $560,000 will be used to help create 14 drug-free homes for people completing and transitioning out of residential substance abuse treatment programs. The money will provide for start-up costs and rental assistance. Residents are required to work and remain drug free.
"This money will go a long way in helping Kentucky's ongoing efforts to provide treatment options for drug abuse. I am especially pleased that a sizeable portion will be used to help juveniles and to provide needed funding for the KASPER program," said House Speaker Greg Stumbo.
Almost $19 million will be used to start a grant program that will fund comprehensive juvenile substance abuse treatment programs, both expanding treatment beds at existing facilities and creating new juvenile treatment programs with the full continuum of care, including intensive outpatient and follow-up care centers.
"Far too many parents have been forced to wait at least 90 days to get their children help or they've had to drive four hours away from home to find a treatment bed," General Conway said. "My goal is to maximize these grants to fund public-private partnerships that will result in expanded treatment for Kentucky teens in every region of Kentucky."
Gov. Beshear today created by Executive Order the Substance Abuse Treatment Advisory Committee to oversee the settlement funding, including the juvenile substance abuse treatment grant program. The committee will be chaired by General Conway and also includes First Lady Jane Beshear, Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Audrey Tayse Haynes, Justice and Public Safety Secretary J. Michael Brown, Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy Director Van Ingram, Kentucky Housing Corporation Executive Director/CEO J. Kathryn Peters and Dr. Allen Brenzel, Clinical Director of the Department for Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities. Appointments made by Senate President Robert Stivers and Speaker Greg Stumbo will serve as ex-officio members of the committee.
The following entities will also receive funds over the next two years from the settlement:
• $6 million to administer and upgrade KASPER, Kentucky's electronic prescription drug monitoring program.
• $1 million to support substance abuse treatment for pregnant women by Chrysalis House in Lexington and Independence House in Corbin.
• $1.5 million to the University of Kentucky to develop best practices for juvenile substance abuse treatment providers.
• $1 million to develop a school-based substance abuse screening tool with the Kentucky Department of Education to intervene with at-risk children before they enter judicial or social services systems.
• $250,000 to create a database to evaluate outcomes of juvenile treatment.
The funds to expand drug treatment programs were made available through settlements with two pharmaceutical companies.
General Conway filed suit against Merck Sharp & Dohme Corporation for failing to disclose to doctors and patients that taking Vioxx significantly raised the risk of heart attack. Meanwhile, it heavily marketed and promoted the drug to consumers and health care professionals. Attorney General Conway recently settled the case for $25 million.
General Conway also filed suit against GlaxoSmithKline for failing to disclose that patients taking its diabetes drug, Avandia, were at a higher risk for a cardiovascular event. General Conway settled the case for $15 million.
The court orders filed in both settlements require that the funds be spent on drug treatment programs.
Photo via Attorney General Jack Conway's office