The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is now accepting applications from states for $930 million in State Opioid Response Grants, which will be used to support efforts throughout the country to provide addiction treatment and recovery support services to those with an opioid use disorder.

The grants, administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration within HHS, are designed to address the national opioid epidemic by “increasing access to evidence-based medication-assisted treatment, reducing unmet treatment need and reducing opioid-related overdose deaths,” according to an HHS news release.

Fifteen percent of the $930 million will be set aside to provide extra support for states “that have been hardest hit by the crisis,” which would likely include Kentucky. Like many other states, Kentucky’s escalating epidemic started after residents became addicted to prescription opioid painkillers. When the state cracked down on “pill mills” dispensing large quantities of those drugs, the use of heroin, a cheaper opioid, began to rise.

According to the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, there were a record 1,404 fatal drug overdoses in Kentucky in 2016, 44 percent of which were related to the use of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times more potent than heroin.

Fentanyl also led Louisville to see a record number of accidental fatal drug overdoses in 2017; records from the Jefferson County Coroner’s office show that it was present in the toxicology reports of 64 percent of the city’s nearly 400 victims.

“The State Opioid Response Grants were designed to meet the specific needs of communities within each state and territory,” Dr. Elinore F. McCance-Katz, assistant secretary of SAMHSA said in the release. “The grants will expand capacity to provide much needed evidence-based care to people who haven’t yet been reached.”

Although access to evidence-based medication-assisted treatment has expanded in Louisville in recent years as more treatment providers embraced Suboxone and buprenorphine, the large majority of treatment options in Kentucky remain abstinence-based.

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Joe Sonka
Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]