On Friday 13 February, The Courier-Journal reported that the KY House of Representatives debated measures to reform heroin drug laws in the state and apportion more state funding for drug treatment. House legislators passed the bill, HB 213, and lawmakers in the House and the Senate will now be tasked with negotiating a successful heroin bill by the end of the current session. The state lawmakers are facing mounting pressure to finally pass a state heroin bill.
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"There is no illness currently being treated that will be more affected by the Affordable Care Act than addiction, that's because we have a system of treatment that was built for a time when they didn't understand that addiction was an illness."
Dr. Tom McLellan, September 11, 2013
CEO, Treatment Research Institute
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In 2012, the number of adults in the United States suffering from substance abuse—more than 60 million—was greater than the number suffering from cancer and diabetes combined.
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In January 2015 the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released new data showing that national rates of overdose deaths from opioid drugs and heroin climbed from 2012-2013. The report confirmed what the CDC, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), and other health organizations have been saying about heroin and prescription drug abuse for several years: it’s an epidemic that has to be reversed. While it takes a year to assess national trends in drug abuse and overdose, more recent reports in states and localities with the worst drug problems, like Northern Kentucky, suggest that this public health epidemic is still getting worse.
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.
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.