Kentucky is set to receive more than $31 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of the State Opioid Response Grants Program, which was created by the 21st Century Cures (CURES) Act.

Dr. Katherine Marks, project director for the Kentucky Opioid Response Effort, said the $31.48 million represents the second year of a two-year State Opioid Response grant to increase access to high quality, evidence-based prevention, treatment and recovery support services.

"Through this SAMHSA support, programs funded in the first year of this grant will receive a second year of funding to support sustainability of these newly established programs," Marks told The Register. "These programs include naloxone distribution, primary prevention in communities and schools, opioid stewardship, engagement and retention in treatment, expanded access to medications for opioid use disorder, and recovery support services such as recovery community centers, re-entry support, employment, and recovery housing."

Marks said long-term federal investment of grant funds in Kentucky is crucial to ending the opioid crisis in Kentucky. She added full implementation of sustainable change in complex systems will require far more than two years of grant funding.

"It is clear that we are beginning to make progress in Kentucky," Marks said. "Rates of overdose deaths in 2018 decreased for the first time since 2013. However, it is also clear that we have a long way to go to support remission, entry into long-term recovery and prevent future generations from developing opioid use disorder."

According to a recent state report, 1,333 people died from drug overdoses in 2018, down nearly 15% from a record 1,566 deaths the prior year in the commonwealth.

Preliminary figures from the National Center for Health Statistics show that 2018 saw the first nationwide decline in drug overdose deaths since 1990.

"The recent reduction in Kentucky overdose deaths has demonstrated that the increased support from our federal partners is making a huge difference in the commonwealth," Van Ingram, the executive director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy said in a release. "We're grateful to U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell for his leadership and commitment to protecting this crucial federal funding to fight addiction in Kentucky communities."

In a release, McConnell said Kentucky is leading the national response to the devastating opioid epidemic, and the federal resources announced will reinforce their life-saving work.

"As Senate Majority Leader, I helped ensure these funds are directed to the hardest-hit states, including Kentucky, where they can have the greatest impact," McConnell said. "Although our Commonwealth recently marked the largest decline in overdose deaths in over a decade, important work remains. The Trump administration and I will continue our commitment to providing federal support to address the scourge of substance abuse with comprehensive solutions. We'll continue working together to help more Kentuckians maintain long-term recovery and to save lives."

McConnell's office announced the grant funding Wednesday.

Jonathan Greene is the editor of The Register; follow him on Twitter @jgreeneRR.

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