Advisory Council will guide city’s susbtance abuse programs

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton took a significant step forward Thursday on one of her administration’s top priorities by establishing the Substance Use Disorder Advisory Council to manage Lexington’s work on substance use disorder.

The group is charged with tailoring the local program to Lexington’s needs, with the long-term goal of ensuring citizens have the tools and support they need to work toward, and maintain a life of sobriety.

The effort builds on the work of the City’s Substance Use Disorder Intervention Program.

Andrea James, the Mayor’s Community Response Strategist, said, “We wanted to build on that good work that is already making a significant dent in the issue through two major grants administered through our Department of Social Services, and in partnership with Division of Fire and Emergency  Services.”

Gorton said through the establishment of the Mayor’s Advisory Council she will elevate the issue, broaden the City’s response, and involve more community members. The Council will become a permanent structure within the City, and be a resource to the Mayor and Urban County Council on substance use disorders.

“Many citizens have identified this as a priority and we need to be sure that our program is meeting local needs. This is very important to me. It is clear substance use disorders have been sapping the life out of our City, and having an impact on quality of life and city services,” Gorton said.

Amy Baker, who manages the City’s Substance Use Disorder Intervention Program, said the addition of the new Council will “make it possible to focus more broadly on multiple substances of abuse, rather than focusing exclusively on opioids. I am very excited to see where this next chapter will lead.”

Gorton said the appointment of the Mayor’s Advisory Council was delayed by the pandemic.

“But, we’re back on track and moving forward. There’s no time to waste. The need is growing because of the pandemic,” Gorton said. “The isolation many people are experiencing because of COVID-19 has driven up overdose rates, erasing much of the progress we made in recent years,” she said.

Overdose deaths in Lexington peaked in 2017 with 187. By mid-September of this year, Lexington had lost 163 citizens to overdoses, more than in all of 2019 when 128 overdose deaths were reported.

The Council will advise on the use of two grants, the Lexington Overdose Outreach Program, and the First Responders and Community Partners Overdose Prevention Project.

These two programs have already helped connect the community to naloxone training and kits, and helped support the Community Paramedicine program.

Additional committees will be added to the Council to tackle issues of funding, strategic planning, family support, transportation and other issues, as needed.

The 57 members of the Mayor’s Council include representatives of social service agencies, justice agencies, public safety, treatment facilities, faith community, University of Kentucky, Healthcare systems, business community, local government agencies, public health department, family or friends who have lost loved ones to an overdose, family support agencies, state representatives, hospitality industry, and people in recovery.

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