Health officials and addiction professionals continue to search for solutions to the outbreaks of heroin use and overdoses in Kentucky and many other regions across the country. But the heroin and prescription painkiller epidemic has created a secondary crisis—a steep rise in a disorder related to substance use in infants of drug-dependent mothers. Justin Madden reported in the Lexington Herald-Leader on the increasing rate of neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS, in babies treated at Lexington’s University of Kentucky Hospital and in hospitals across the state.
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In a recent State of the Judiciary speech, Kentucky’s Chief Justice praised the efficacy of Kentucky’s drug courts but emphasized the need the steer more drug offenders toward this rehabilitative option rather than jail time or other sentencing options. Current enrollment in the state’s drug court programs is around 2,000, well below the 2010 high-water mark of 3,000, according to Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. The drug court population has failed to expand as rapidly as Kentucky’s population of heroin users, which is said to be at crisis levels.
Some much-needed resources for treating teens with addiction and substance use disorders will be distributed to 19 treatment centers and organizations across the state of Kentucky. According to recent CDC figures reported in the Cincinnati Enquirer, Kentucky high-school students use heroin at twice the national rate. It’s one picture of an epidemic of drug use and overdose deaths troubling many parts of the state. Addressing teen substance use is an important part of solving Kentucky’s drug crisis, and the state has had a program in development for some time to deliver about $20 million of funding to adolescent treatment organizations.
Kentucky will be getting a much-needed fiscal boost to fight the continuing crisis of prescription drug abuse and overdose. WFPL News reported that on August 5 the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was in Kentucky, in part to award the state with a $1.08 million grant. The Prescription Drug Overdose Prevention Boost grant will be used to remedy the drug overdose epidemic that has been devastating many areas of the state, notably Northern and Eastern Kentucky. The three-year grant funding was awarded to five different states currently facing some of the worst crises in prescription drug misuse.
The state’s efforts at reducing overdose deaths may be proving effective in some areas, but heroin overdose rates keep getting worse.
Every year Kentucky’s Office of Drug Control Policy is required to issue a report on the number of drug overdoses that occurred in the state over the past year. The statistics that are compiled are used to track the state’s campaign against the epidemic of heroin and opioid drug use and overdose faced by many of the state’s regions. This year’s report, recently issued, offered some good news and bad. Although the total number of overdose deaths remained the same as the previous year, there’s been an upsurge in heroin overdose deaths.