$1.5 Million Awarded to St. Elizabeth to Fight Opioid Crisis

St. Elizabeth Healthcare received $1.5 million in grant funds to address the region's opioid crisis and substance use disorder, including services for pregnant and parenting women.

The money was awarded by the Fifth Third Foundation, the Jacob C. Schmidlapp Trust, and Charlotte R. Schmidlapp Fund.

Grant funds will be used for the expansion of substance abuse programming including staffing and resources for harm reduction efforts, prevention, treatment and recovery services, and public and prescriber education.

“St. Elizabeth has learned from experience the opioid epidemic is a complex issue which requires a community approach,” said Garren Colvin, president & CEO, St. Elizabeth Healthcare. “We also have learned to never under estimate the social issues people and their families are facing.”

The specific programming goals include connecting across systems for realistic, sustainable solutions, focus on prevention with youth to prevent the adoption of unhealthy behaviors, decrease the spread of infectious diseases and premature deaths, and provide treatment/support to people recovering from substance use disorders.

“Substance use not only affects those who are addicted but their family and loved ones,” said Heidi Jark, Senior Vice President & Managing Director, The Foundation Office at Fifth Third Bank. “Without the intervention, there is no opportunity to treat the disease of addiction. Addiction, overdose and deaths know no boundaries.”

According to the 2016 Kentucky Overdose Fatality Report, Kenton, Campbell, and Boone Counties remain in the top 5 counties in Kentucky for heroin-related deaths. In 2017 St. Elizabeth’s five emergency departments treated 2,660 patients with an opioid overdose and 765 with a substance use disorder (such as alcohol, methamphetamine, and cocaine).

“We are proud of our ongoing commitment to serving our communities through philanthropy,” said Tim Elsbrock, Fifth Third Regional President and Member of the Charlotte R. Schmidlapp Committee. “Given the wildfire-like growth of this epidemic in our backyard, we believe our contribution to support the great work that St Elizabeth Healthcare is leading to address substance abuse with programming and education has never been more critical.”

Since 2015, there have been more than 1,300 babies born whose cords tested positive for opiates and other addictive substances, increasing steadily every year. Many of these babies do not require medication. Of the 327 babies born in 2015 whose cord tested positive for opiates or other drugs, 106 babies were diagnosed with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) requiring pharmacologic treatment.

St. Elizabeth has responded to the addiction epidemic by hiring additional and dedicated staff, expanding services for treatment, and working with community partners on policies and infrastructure to address this complex issue. The expanded treatment services include the Baby Steps program for pregnant and parenting mothers with substance use disorder, the opening of the Journey Recovery Center (addiction service clinic), and the development of the emergency department Bridge Clinic services.

In addition, St. Elizabeth advocated for and hosts a community syringe exchange program in conjunction with the NKY Health Department, provided financial support of the NKY Helpline, and supplied Narcan rescue kits to first responders and families.

-Staff report