Kentucky has received funding from two federal agencies to help combat the state’s growing heroin abuse epidemic.
The Office of National Drug Policy announced Monday that it plans to spread $2.5 million across 15 states — including the Appalachian regions of Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee — to fight heroin abuse in high-intensity drug trafficking areas.
The plan from the federal agency will partner public health experts with law enforcement to collect and analyze data on overdoses and trends in heroin trafficking. Funding will also be used to train first responders on how to use medication that can reverse overdoses.
Van Ingram, executive director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, said partnering public health experts with law enforcement presents a unique opportunity for different sectors to work toward a common goal.
“We tend to work in our silos, and this can get us working together. We all want the same result, and that’s less harm from substance abuse — and in this case, it’s heroin addiction,” Ingram said.
A state report estimated that in 2014, 1,087 Kentuckians died from drug overdoses. That’s up by 77 deaths from the previous year. Last year, Jefferson County had the most overdose deaths of any county in the state.
That’s not the only federal funding coming to help fight heroin abuse.
The state Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities is set to receive up to $3 million to expand substance abuse treatment for opiate-dependent pregnant and postpartum women, according to the governor’s office.
The federal grant, from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, will be used for women living in the Bluegrass and Cumberland regions of the state.
Dr. Allen Brenzel, medical director for BHDID, said pregnant women tend to be especially motivated to enter treatment.
“Our hope is to keep moms and infants together, to provide them the support to deliver a healthy baby and provide support to them after the baby is born,” he said.
Brenzel said an increasing number of infants in Kentucky are born with neonatal abstinence syndrome. In 2014, more than 1,000 babies were hospitalized for NAS.