WASHINGTON — The nation suffered a record number of deadly drug overdoses last year, the overwhelming majority of them involving opioids like heroin and fentanyl.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is providing nearly $1.5 billion to states and territories to address the opioid epidemic. This funding is a part of the State Opioid Response grant program.
Data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention shows the number of overdose deaths in Kentucky jumped nearly 50% in 2020 and the preliminary estimate shows and additional increase of about 13% in 2021.
“Kentucky’s substance abuse problem was a crisis before the pandemic. Now, it’s a catastrophe,” said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-KY.
McConnell published a column highlighting the “dire” situation in the Commonwealth saying “we cannot give up hope.”
“Many states have been hit hard by the overdose epidemic, particularly as its been exacerbated by COVID-19,” said Dr. Yngvild Olson, the Director for Substance Abuse Treatment at Substance Abuse at SAMHSA. “The isolation, mental health issues and anxiety that come along with that can drive individuals to increase their substance use or start using.”
Olsen says the stress and anxiety caused by the pandemic are not the only factor driving overdose deaths. States with more access to illegally manufactured fentanyl are experiencing especially high mortality rates. Because overdoses are now such a problem in Kentucky, it qualifies for extra money under the State Opioid Response grant program.
“Kentucky is one of the top states that are experiencing that high overdose mortality rate, so Congress directed us to set aside about 15% of the funds to really focus on those states,” Olsen explained.
Kentucky will receive $36 million from this specific program. The funds will be used to provide treatment services and prevention and recovery support.
“We’re also very much focused on getting naloxone, which is the opioid overdose reversal medication that can save lives in the event of an overdose, getting that into communities and states,” Olsen said.
In President Joe Biden’s State of the Union Address, he outlined a unity agenda that highlights areas that his administration believes Republicans and Democrats can come together. One of the focus points he announced was working to beat the opioid epidemic.
If you or someone you know is looking for a treatment for a substance use related issue you can get more information at findtreatment.gov.