State, community leaders recognize Overdose Awareness Day

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Gov. Andy Beshear joined a bipartisan group of state and community leaders to recognize Overdose Awareness Day in Kentucky.

Overdose Awareness Day is a global event held on Aug. 31 each year to raise awareness of drug overdoses, to reduce the stigma of drug-related deaths and to acknowledge the grief felt by families and friends as they remember those who have died or have a permanent injury as a result of a drug overdose.

“Our job is to provide help, hope and a hand to lead people out of the darkness of substance use and into the light – of acceptance, opportunity and community,” said Beshear. “Today, we take time to honor the lives lost to overdose and addiction – and call all Kentuckians to work together to prevent future pain and suffering.”

The ongoing pandemic, as it did throughout the nation, greatly impacted opioid deaths in the commonwealth. In Kentucky, there were at least 2,104 drug-related deaths in the 12-month period ending December 2020, a 54% increase over the previous year.

Today’s ceremony was livestreamed and included a demonstration of Naloxone, a medicine that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose, by the Kentucky Pharmacists Association. To learn more about Naloxone, visit https://kyhrc.org/services/.

As part of the observance, Gov. Beshear directed that flags at all state office buildings be lowered to half-staff from sunrise until sunset on Tuesday. The Governor encourages individuals, businesses and organizations throughout the commonwealth to join in this tribute. Gov. Beshear also lit the Governor’s Mansion purple in honor of Overdose Awareness Day.

“The commonwealth has been hit incredibly hard by the drug crisis, and on International Overdose Awareness Day we mourn our fellow Kentuckians whose lives have been cut short and honor the families who carry on their legacies,” said Attorney General Daniel Cameron. “In the midst of this crisis, we continue pushing every available resource toward combatting the drug epidemic. Whether it’s working with law enforcement to get drugs off of our streets or holding opioid companies accountable, ending this crisis requires effective collaboration and a sustained effort on every front, and we will continue to do our part.”

“I think it’s very important as we gather today to honor lives lost to this disease that we begin to see this issue for what it truly is – and that we see all individuals diagnosed with substance use disorders as people, our fellow Kentuckians, who need access to evidence-based, compassionate care,” said Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) Secretary Eric Friedlander.

“For anyone who is in recovery or has a family member, friend, co-worker or neighbor, please know that we are proud of you,” said Van Ingram, executive director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy. “We appreciate your efforts and we stand here today to tell you that we are available to assist with your journey. Please reach out for access to resources and let’s all continue to lift each other up and save our communities from losing more loved ones and citizens to this tragic drug epidemic.”

“This day is vitally important to me, because I lost a nephew to the opioid epidemic and will forever treasure his memory and wish he could still be with us today,” Kentucky House Democratic Caucus Leader Joni Jenkinssaid. “I always have and always will support efforts to tackle this crisis, and I believe strongly we can do even more to help Kentuckians escape this deadly cycle and rebuild their lives. That need is even more imperative during the COVID crisis, which has contributed to skyrocketing overdose cases. We have to find ways to keep more of our citizens safe.”

“Conversations to spread awareness of substance abuse drive attitudinal changes that not only reduce the stigma around addiction-related health issues, but they drive policy changes across the state and the country,” Rep. Kim Moser said. “We remain committed to removing barriers that keep Kentuckians from seeking the treatment they need, ultimately ending Kentucky’s ongoing overdose epidemic.”

“The opioid epidemic has adversely affected us all, with many losing a loved one to this disease and everyone suffering from human and economic costs that are simply incalculable,” said Rep. Patti Minter. “I am honored today to share the story of constituents who unfortunately have a personal connection to this tragedy, and I deeply appreciate the support of Gov. Andy Beshear, my General Assembly colleagues, advocates and many others as we pledge on this day of remembrance to do whatever else it takes to save more lives.”

“No family is immune from addiction. It is a pervasive, widespread disease that harms families and takes countless lives each year. No matter where you find yourself in Kentucky, drug addiction and substance abuse run rampant through our local communities,” Rep. Dan Elliott said. “Addiction touches us all in one form or another.”

“Today – on Overdose Awareness Day – and every day, we must remember the Kentuckians who have lost their lives to addiction,” said Beth Davisson, senior vice president of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Foundation. “These are our friends and family members. Our colleagues and neighbors. Our parents. Our sons and daughters. I will never stop fighting for them – and know the Chamber and the Kentucky business community share the same commitment.”

Since taking office, the Governor has continued his pledge to fight tirelessly for those suffering from substance abuse, along with their families.

On Aug. 17, Gov. Beshear and Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary Kerry Harvey announced that a total of almost $1.2 million in grant funding has been awarded from the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Comprehensive Opioid and Stimulant Substance Abuse Program (COSSAP) to Kentucky entities to implement a collaborative project creating pathways to recovery and healing for those that have been negatively impacted by opioids, stimulants and substance abuse.

In June 2021, Beshear announced more than $570,000 in COSSAP grant funding had been awarded to the Jeffersontown Police Department and Access to Justice Commission to develop a variety of treatment options and provide the commonwealth with another resource tool to end the devastating drug epidemic.

In February 2021, the Beshear administration also announced $4.6 million in grant funding to expand treatment and recovery services, including those for mothers and pregnant women with opioid use disorders and an additional $1.4 million to assist state and local law enforcement with efforts to prevent or reduce crime and violence, and address drug trafficking in their communities.

By the end of 2022, the Beshear administration, in partnership with the Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP), estimates that over a three-year period the office will have awarded more than $69 million in grant funding across the commonwealth, focused on aiding all Kentuckians in need of recovery help and preventing future generations from falling prey to addiction.

In March, Gov. Beshear signed House Bill 7 into law to ensure that communities are recovery-ready by having resources in place, such as employment, transportation, recovery meetings and support groups.

Treatment Resources
The KY Help Call Center, created in 2017 through a partnership with Operation UNITE, remains available to those with a substance use disorder, or their friends or family members, as a quick resource to information on treatment options and open slots among treatment providers. Individuals may call 833-8KY-HELP (833-859-4357) to speak one-on-one with a specialist who will connect them with treatment as quickly as possible.

The Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center at the University of Kentucky College of Public Health manages a vital website, www.findhelpnowky.org, for Kentucky health care providers, court officials, families and individuals seeking options for substance abuse treatment and recovery. It offers real-time information about available space in treatment programs, and guides users to the right type of treatment for their needs. The site provides a search engine for drug treatment, helping users locate treatment providers based on location, facility type, and category of treatment needed.

The Kentucky State Police (KSP) Angel Initiative is a proactive program designed to help people battle addiction. Anyone suffering from a substance use disorder can visit one of KSP’s 16 posts located throughout the commonwealth to be paired with a local officer who will assist with locating an appropriate treatment program. The Angel Initiative is completely voluntary, and individuals will not be arrested or charged with any violations if they agree to participate in treatment. For more information about the Angel Initiative, visit the KSP website.

ODCP has continued to work diligently with several agencies throughout the commonwealth, including Kentucky Opioid Response Effort, Kentucky Pharmacists Association, Department of Corrections and CHFS to successfully increase the distribution of naloxone (Narcan). To access naloxone or for more resources on how to respond to an overdose, click here or here.

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