Some say that reimplementing into society and the workforce is the hardest part about recovering from addiction.

And sometimes for those that do complete a recovery program, they find themselves falling back into the life they attempted to flee simply because they have limited to no options once they leave a facility.

In an initiative to counteract this, officials of the Lexington-Fayette County Urban Government (LFCUG), Madison County Fiscal Court and the Scott County Fiscal Court have teamed up in the hopes to pilot a program to offer certification training or workforce experience that would help an individual better prepare for life after recovery.

According to Andrea James, the initiative's coordinator and former LFCUG council member, the opioid epidemic was a top priority for Mayor Linda Gorton's administration after she took office in January.

James said that once Gorton "cracked the shell open locally" with businesses, healthcare systems and partner agencies, regional conversations began with neighboring counties around the workforce and economic development.

"This issue has been something that every judge/executive has discussed," James said.

With Madison and Scott counties on board, the group will request to apply for a grant from the Department of Labor, in a partnership to be a pilot project for the state through the Cabinet for Family and Health Services.

While the program is only in its early planning stages, the idea for the program would allow for individuals in a certain phase of a sober living facility to apply to take part in the program for a certain period of time. In that time, they would find employment, receive training and wages while working to complete their recovery program.

The hope, James said, would be that an employee could stay on with the employer after completion of the program.

"This is a rocket ship opportunity that someone can get into a trained certified position that this can lead to longer term employment and higher income and put them in a better family situation that may have been dismantled from their addiction prior," she said.

Several factors contributed to the choosing of both Madison and Scott counties to be included. The first being that they are both bordering counties and they include employment opportunities that feature certifications and jobs available that pay the wages that they are aiming towards.

"Madison County is a booming county right now, and they are picking up a lot of things," James said.

Data of opioid usage for both counties was also looked at, noting specifically where drug use is heavy and places where leaders are looking to do something to combat the issue.

"Regionalism is something that the mayor talks about often, if we can find partnerships on any topics that affect all of us, we are up for the conversation," James said.

If funding is awarded to pilot the program, Elodie Dickinson, director for business and workforce engagement the program, will start with a target number of 30 individuals, which will potentially feature five people in the other two counties.

She explained that referrals could come from different recovery systems, district courts or workforce boards with a primary role to find jobs that will help produce a sustainable income.

Dickinson said that with each of the three counties struggling with low unemployment rates, this program could help "think outside of the box" for labor pools, saying those in recovery "are a good pool to draw from."

She said that in Fayette, Scott and Madison counties, 7,474 people are unemployed, but able to work.

"Of those 7,000 unemployed, what are they doing," she asked. "Some of them may not be able to work, but then there may be another pool that is looking for the next step after recovery. This will help with both of those."

At Tuesday's meeting, the Madison County Fiscal Court approved to participate with the other two counties in the hopes of piloting a new program, Judge/Executive Reagan Taylor said this was a way to "try and take that baby step to combat this drug crisis in our community."

"Since 2015, I have aggressively advocated for our county in an effort to address our drug crisis," Taylor said in a written statement to The Register. "The Fiscal Court and I are pleased to partner with Scott County and Fayette County in the application for grant funds to bring needed employer/employee support to aid those in and on the road to recovery reenter the workforce. While we are realists and know this will not entirely solve our issue, it is one of many tools in our toolbox we will be able to use to improve the health and wellness of Madison County."

Taylor hopes that with this partnership it would present a good opportunity to see how it works and maybe try a similar program within Madison County in the future.

"All the pieces are there for them to take and earn a living wage and not go back," Dickinson said.

Reach Taylor Six at 624-6623 or follow her on Twitter at @TaylorSixRR.

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