Ky. to get $940,000 more a year to fight prescription drug abuse and heroin; top drug-abuse fighter coming to Ky. for workshop

The federal government will give Kentucky another $940,000 a year for the next four years to fight prescription drug abuse and heroin.

The money is part of a new program of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is giving money to 16 states after a competitive application process. The funds will give the states “the resources and expertise they need to help prevent overdose deaths related to prescription opioids,” a CDC press release said.

Nora Volkow, M.D.

“We are seeing an increase in the number of people who are dying from overdoses, predominantly after abuse of prescribed opioid analgesics. This disturbing trend appears to be associated with a growing number of prescriptions in and diversion from the legal market,” Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told a Senate hearing in May.

Use of heroin in Kentucky mushroomed after the state cracked down on prescription painkillers. Volkow will be the keynote speaker at a Sept. 21 health coverage workshop in Louisville, hosted by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and co-sponsored by the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, publisher of Kentucky Health News.

The Institute is based at the University of Kentucky. So is the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center, which will receive the new federal money. The center is a partnership between the UK and the Kentucky Department for Public Health.

The federal grants “will be used to improve controlled-substances prescribing practices and to evaluate drug overdose prevention interventions for prescription drugs and heroin,” said a release from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “This effort will allow Kentucky to continue to enhance and implement one of the nation’s leading prescription drug monitoring programs . . . by improving inter-operability with electronic health-record systems.”

The money will also “target interventions in counties with some of the highest rates of drug overdoses, including Jefferson, Fayette, Boone, Kenton and Campbell,” the release said.

Other states receiving the grants of $750,000 to $1 million each are Arizona, California, Illinois, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont and Wisconsin. A total of $20 million will be distributed in the federal fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

President Obama has asked Congress to expand the program to every state. “Reversing this epidemic will require programs in all 50 states,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden.

The CDC release noted that deaths from heroin overdoses have nearly tripled since 2010, with more than 8,000 overdose deaths involving heroin in 2013, the last year for which figures are available.

“The amount of opioids prescribed and sold in the United States has increased four-fold since 1999, but there has not been an overall change in the amount of pain that Americans report,” the release said.

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