Story and photo by Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News
Two of the three Kentucky Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission subcommittees reviewed five grant applications asking for funds to fight the opioid epidemic and approved two with caveats, classified two as “maybes” and gave a firm “no” to one on Jan. 24.
The settlement funds come from opioid manufacturers and distributors and are required to be used for reimbursement of prior expenses and the funding of new programs related to the prevention, treatment and recovery of people with opioid-use disorders and co-occurring substance-use disorders, or mental health issues.
So far, Kentucky is getting $842 million from these settlement funds, half of which will be allocated by the state advisory commission, with the other half going to cities and counties. Funds are to be disbursed annually, on various schedules, through 2038.
Members of the Prevention Subcommittee and the Reform and Compliance Subcommittee spent an hour deciding the initial fate of five applications referenced only by an assigned number, to keep them private.
Details from the applications were occasionally and vaguely mentioned during the committee discussion.
However, it was apparent that one of the two applications that got a “yes” vote, both with caveats and adjustments, dealt with harm reduction, while the other was for unnamed program for a small youth cohort. The “maybe” group included a national organization that would partner with existing programs in Kentucky and an elective class to be offered to younger students. The application that got the “no” vote involved a group from New York that proposed something already being done in Kentucky.
The main concern with all four applications was money, with a general consensus that they were asking for too much to execute their plans. Other concerns dealt with coverage areas, a need for assurance that the monies would be spent in Kentucky, questions about staffing models and salaries, and a need to know how the programs might overlap with existing programs.
The committee said all of the applications were different from each other and could not be grouped together.
Bryan Hubbard, executive director and chair of the advisory commission, opened the meeting by reading the 12 criteria established in an emergency administrative regulation to guide the assessment of the applications.
The regulation says the commission, in awarding funds, shall consider:
- Compliance with applicable law;
- The entity or agency’s record and responsibility in utilizing effectively any funds received previously from the commission or local governments, as described in KRS 15.293;
- The geographic reach of the application;
- Amounts received from the commission or local governments;
- The utility and effectiveness of any part of the application;
- The extent to which Kentucky residents are served by the application;
- The extent to which prior allocations from the commission have served similar purposes;
- The extent to which the application proposes to serve a portion of the population that otherwise would not receive such service;
- The extent to which the application proposes to incorporate relevant partnerships that are likely to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of programming;
- The extent to which the application proposes, among other things, to educate the public about opioid misuse and opioid-use disorder, reduce the occurrence of opioid misuse and opioid-use disorder, promote resistance to opioid misuse and opioid-use disorder, promote the effective treatment of opioid-use disorder, and/or combat the effects of opioid misuse, including co-occurring mental-health issues;
- The extent to which the application activities align with accepted evidence-based practices; and/or
- The sufficiency of records to validate the requested amounts.
Hubbard then instructed the subcommittee to place the reviewed applications into a yes, no or maybe category, adding that the maybes should also include a list of questions and concerns that would be addressed by the applicant so that they could then be placed into a yes or no category.
He said the applications placed in the “yes” category would be assessed for their coverage areas, that like proposals would be grouped together and that unique, stand-alone proposals would remain so.
“That is our process,” he said.
Later in the meeting, Scott Hornbuckle, a staffer with the commission, clarified what a yes vote for an application meant: “Yes means it’s a good idea, we want them to participate at some level, we need to look into it further. It does not mean, yes, we approve their grants at this price point,” but the application would move to the next step in the process.
Hubbard told the legislature’s health committees Jan. 19 that the commission had received 32 completed applications and 231 more are in progress. He said the total asked by the completed applications is $63.6 million.
Applications are being accepted on a rolling deadline, and the application date is open-ended, at least for now. The commission plans to make the first awards in the spring, with hopes of making three more later this year.
Members of the subcommittees
Members of the Prevention Subcommittee in attendance were Von Purdy, representing citizens at large and chair of the joint subcommittee; Eric Friedlander, representing the Cabinet for Health and Family Services; and Carlos Cameron, district director for Fifth District U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, who was appointed by state Senate President Robert Stivers.
Dr. Allen Brenzel, medical director of the Department for Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities, who serves if Friedlander is absent, also attended the meeting.
Members of the Reform and Compliance Committee in attendance were state Rep. Danny Bentley, appointed by House Speaker David Osborne; Vic Brown, representing law enforcement, who attended via telephone; and state Treasurer Allison Ball. Jason Roop, representing victims of the opioid crisis, was absent.
Also present was Lorran Ferguson, Ball’s chief of staff and deputy treasurer.