As many as 2 million Americans are struggling with prescription drug addiction across the nation. Tragically, heroin and opioid overdoses claim an average of 91 lives every day. This startling trend continues to get worse, especially here in Kentucky.
But together, we can do more to fight back, and I will continue to assist those in Kentucky who are working to fight the epidemic.
Since 2015, I have participated in over a dozen roundtable conversations across the commonwealth with law enforcement and front line health providers about their efforts to combat addiction. At these events, I hear personal stories about the pain this epidemic has caused to families and communities.
A study released by the University of Cincinnati confirmed what I have heard from communities across Kentucky. It showed that 30% of Kentuckians surveyed know someone with problems related to prescription opioids, and 20 percent know someone with issues resulting from heroin use. Our Commonwealth is being overwhelmed by a heartbreaking prescription opioid and heroin epidemic. Too many Kentuckians have watched their loved ones struggle with addiction, and it’s tearing families apart. “This public health epidemic is only getting worse,” said Garren Colvin, the President and CEO of St. Elizabeth Healthcare, “it requires a comprehensive and collaborative effort to enhance prevention and treatment services.”
Therefore, I made securing crucial new resources to help combat heroin and prescription opioid abuse a top priority in the government funding bill that was recently signed into law. These new resources, which dedicates substantial funding through the appropriations process to address this crisis, will allow us to take another step towards ending it. Dr. Anthony Zipple, the CEO of Centerstone KY, told my office that these funds will help “front line providers to more effectively deploy resources and tackle this epidemic within our communities.”
These new resources will help build upon the progress we have already made to fight heroin and prescription opioid abuse. Last year, I shepherded two bipartisan authorizing bills through the Senate and into enactment that are already making a substantial impact in our work to combat this epidemic.
The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act helped to bolster treatment, prevention, recovery, and law enforcement tools. In addition, it established new grant programs to help communities fight against substance abuse. My office stands ready to help Kentucky organizations compete for these competitive federal grant funds.
The 21st Century Cures Act authorized $1 billion over two years to help states combat the prescription opioid epidemic. In fact, the first funds from the 21st Century Cures Act were recently made available. Dr. Tom Price, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, announced that Kentucky would receive over $10 million to fight substance abuse. These competitive grants to states promote community-based, innovative thinking to combat addiction, because local providers know the concerns of their area and what tools they need to confront the problems.
Although one bill or a single grant alone cannot solve Kentucky’s substance abuse problem, together these actions are helping to turn the tide of increasing addiction and drug fatalities. Through the funding bill, for instance, we are able to dedicate much-needed resources toward tackling the problem of heroin and prescription opioid abuse. It’s just one more way we are fighting back against this epidemic in our communities.
I stand ready to continue confronting this challenge on behalf of families across Kentucky who have lost loved ones to addiction. Along with my colleagues in Congress and in the Administration, this issue will continue to remain a top priority until the scourge of drug addiction is behind us.