Attorney General Daniel Cameron, right, meets with people at Kentucky's Capitol in Frankfort, on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023. Cameron announced the latest round of funding for groups on the frontlines in the state's fight against drug abuse. (AP Photo/Bruce Schreiner)
By BRUCE SCHREINER, The Associated Press
FRANKFORT — A state commission has awarded nearly $14 million in the latest round of funding to groups serving “in the trenches” to combat Kentucky’s drug abuse problems, Attorney General Daniel Cameron said Monday.
A few dozen groups will receive portions of the $13.9 million, which stems from a massive settlement with opioid companies. It continues the flow of money to grassroots groups specializing in drug prevention, treatment and recovery services as Kentucky struggles to overcome the deadly scourge.
“To all those struggling with addiction, our message is clear: Help is on the way. Millions of dollars in help is on the way,” Cameron said in announcing the latest awards at the Kentucky Capitol.
The Kentucky Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission is funneling the money to an array of programs — from small towns to the state’s largest cities. The awards are designed to help combat a drug problem that Cameron has branded as “the public safety challenge of our lifetime.”
The Bluegrass State had 2,135 overdose deaths in 2022, down more than 5% from the prior year and the first statewide decline since 2018. The increased prevalence of fentanyl — a powerful synthetic opioid — is blamed by officials as a key factor behind the high death toll in Kentucky. Potent, inexpensive methamphetamine is seen as another significant contributor.
Cameron’s office secured more than $800 million for Kentucky as part of settlements with companies for their roles in the opioid addiction crisis.
Half of Kentucky’s settlement to combat the opioid crisis will flow directly to cities and counties. The commission oversees the state’s half. Cameron announced the group’s membership last year and it held town hall meetings to hear from people harmed by the opioid epidemic.
Including the latest recipient groups announced Monday, more than $32 million has been awarded for opioid prevention, treatment and recovery programs this year in Kentucky, Cameron’s office said.
Those programs are staffed by people “serving in the trenches” of fighting the drug epidemic, the attorney general said at Monday’s event.
The state’s drug woes have emerged as a persistent issue in Kentucky’s hard-fought gubernatorial campaign, pitting Cameron against incumbent Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear. The latest awards were announced barely more than a month before Election Day. Cameron revealed an earlier round of funding a few weeks before the state’s May primary, when he won the GOP nomination to challenge Beshear.
There’s a running debate about who should share in the credit for bringing opioid settlement money to the Bluegrass State, but also who should be blamed for a surge in drug-related deaths that plagued Kentucky in recent years. Nationally, overdose deaths soared amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Beshear has noted that he aggressively targeted opioid manufacturers and distributors, filing numerous lawsuits against them when he was Cameron’s predecessor as attorney general. Cameron says he was the one who ultimately secured the settlement funding for Kentucky.