Kentucky attorney general announces funding to groups combating drug addiction

Published 3:25 pm Thursday, June 20, 2024

By Bruce Schreiner, The Associated Press

Kentucky will distribute more than $12 million in the latest round of funding to groups at the front lines of combating drug addiction, state Attorney General Russell Coleman said Thursday.

Several dozen organizations will share in the latest influx of funding to bolster prevention, treatment and enforcement efforts statewide, the Republican attorney general said. It comes as Kentucky achieves some progress in an addiction epidemic that’s far from over, and it poses a big challenge for Coleman, who took office at the start of this year, and other state leaders.

“We’re here to save lives,” Coleman said during an event in Lexington, the state’s second-largest city.

The Kentucky Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission is funneling the money to an array of programs from small towns to large cities. The commission is responsible for distributing Kentucky’s share of nearly $900 million recovered in settlements with opioid companies. Half of Kentucky’s settlement will flow directly to cities and counties. The commission oversees the state’s half.

“This is blood money, purchased by pain and devastation of families across this commonwealth, which is why we must be such stewards of this money,” Coleman said.

With the latest round of funding, the commission has awarded $55 million so far to “try to save lives and tackle this crisis,” Coleman said. The commission this month selected 51 organizations from more than 160 applications to share in the latest $12 million-plus allotment, he said.

“We’re building programs and services that help Kentuckians for the next generation,” he said.

Coleman has stressed the need to build a statewide drug prevention effort.

“We exist in a commonwealth where as little as one pill can and is taking our sons and our daughters,” he said. “But yet we lack a statewide prevention effort in our commonwealth. That will change.”

Kentucky has started to make “some degree of progress” in the fight against drug addiction, he said.

Drug overdose deaths in Kentucky fell nearly 10% in 2023, marking a second straight annual decline in the fight against the addiction epidemic, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear said recently, citing the state’s latest Drug Overdose Fatality Report.

The number of fatal overdoses statewide dropped below 2,000, as officials credited a comprehensive response that includes treatment and prevention, as well as illegal drug seizures by law enforcement.

Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, remained the biggest culprit, accounting for 79% of overdose deaths in 2023, the report said.

“Even while we celebrate progress, there’s a lot of heartbreak and pain because of this epidemic that continues,” Beshear said recently.

Kentucky is at the forefront nationally in the per-capita number of residential drug and alcohol treatment beds, Beshear has said. The governor also pointed to the state’s Treatment Access Program, which allows people without health insurance to enter residential treatment.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who has steered huge sums of federal funding to his home state to combat its addiction woes, said the latest report was a “cause for hope.”

Kentucky’s Republican-dominated legislature passed a sweeping measure this year that’s meant to combat crime. A key section took aim at the prevalence of fentanyl by creating harsher penalties when its distribution results in fatal overdoses.

Coleman made the funding announcement Thursday at Lexington’s DV8 Kitchen. It offers second-chance employment opportunities for people in the early stages of recovery. DV8 Kitchen received a prevention grant of more than $150,000 to establish an employee success mentorship program.