Health

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced federal funding for several Kentucky health care centers to help fight the state’s opioid epidemic.

Dr. Pamela Roshell, regional director of HHS, said on Friday that Kentucky would receive more than $1.8 million to increase access to treatment for individuals living with an addiction.

More than $10 million has been allocated for Region 4, which includes Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

HHS is awarding $94 million to 271 health centers across 45 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico to expand and improve how it delivers substance abuse services — with a specific focus on medication assisted treatment (MAT).

Roshell said the opioid epidemic is one of the most pressing public health issues in the U.S.

“Right here in Region 4, there were over 9,000 deaths from drug overdoses in 2014,” she said. “In fact, drug overdose deaths are the leading cause of injury death in the U.S., more than car crashes.”

The Kentucky providers set to receive funding are Cumberland Family Medical Centers, Eastern Kentucky University, Family Health Centers in Louisville, Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation and Sterling Health Solutions.

“With these funds, centers will be able to screen more patients and connect them with substance abuse treatment,” Roshell said.

She said HHS is focusing on three priority areas: informed prescribing decisions; increasing the use of naloxone, a medication used to block the effects of an overdose; and expanding the use of MAT.

“We are working across sectors and with state and federal partners to find balance between the legitimate use of these drugs and the need to curb dangerous practices,” she said.

Roshell said health centers would be able to hire approximately 800 care providers and treat nearly 124,000 new patients nationwide with the latest round of funding.