First round of state grants from settlements with opioid makers and distributors, more than $8 million, go to 24 organizations
By Melissa Patrick, Kentucky Health News
Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced the first 24 organizations to receive over $8 million in grant funding from the state Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission on Thursday, with 14 of the grants going toward treatment and recovery and 10 for prevention of opioid abuse.
“The opioid crisis lingers and won’t be defeated merely with these dollars,” Cameron said at a news conference to announce the awards. “But for the first time in a long time, meaningful relief is here. For the first time in a long time, we have something to rally around, we have a reason for hope.”
So far, Kentucky is in line to get nearly $900 million in settlements with drug makers, distributors and big retailers. Cameron has implied he should get sole credit, at odds with the account of Gov. Andy Beshear, who preceded him as attorney general and whose job he wants.
Under state law, half of opioid-settlement money is allocated annually by the commission, which is housed in the attorney general’s office, and the other half is allocated by cities and counties, among themselves. Cameron said he has worked closely with local governments and the legislature to manage these funds responsibly because “Not a dime can be wasted; too much is at stake.”
The money is required to be used for reimbursement of prior expenses and the funding of new programs related to the prevention, treatment and recovery of people with opioid-use disorders and co-occurring substance-use disorders or mental-health issues.
Bryan Hubbard, executive director and chairman of the commission, praised the ongoing commitment of commission members, noting that since being appointed in June 2022, they have had 11 town-hall meetings across the state, 10 business meetings and numerous subcommittee meetings.
Asked what was gleaned from the town halls, Hubbard said thousands of people attended them and that they inevitably became a “collective, cathartic exercise in communal grief” that revealed common needs across the state, including child-centered prevention programs and recovery services that include housing, transportation services, life-skill training, educational opportunities and formalized vocational training.
“The organizations that are here . . . have all been resourced to meet those acute needs based on the collected feedback that we receive from thousands,” Hubbard said.
He said the commission hopes to make its next grant announcements sometime in “early to mid-fall” after considering about 65 applications that are seeking $130 million, with only $30 million available.
Hubbard said they have 200 applications in the pipeline and that the commission is working to provide grant makers who can offer individualized assistance to organizations that are not used to writing grants “to ensure good, full consideration of our grassroots organizations.”
“We will always remember the thousands of lives that paid for the settlement from which these funds come, for it is blood money,” said Hubbard. ” You are here because you are the front line foot soldiers who will get in the streets and get in the hollers and bring Kentucky some unified victory.”
Cameron said, “I’m proud to say that because of this office’s action, with a lot of you all that are here today, Kentucky stands to receive nearly $900 million in settlement from funds from pharmacies, distributors, wholesalers and manufacturers of opioids. This is Kentucky’s share of what is a historic settlement, the second largest such agreement in American history.”
Cameron claims sole credit; Beshear says he’s shocked
Cameron is a candidate in the May 16 Republican primary to pick a nominee to run against Beshear, who has nominal Democratic opposition. Last week on WKYT-TV‘s Kentucky Newsmakers, Cameron talked about Beshear filing a lot of lawsuits but bringing no settlement money to the state. Asked about that Thursday, Cameron said: “We wanted to quit talking about the epidemic and bring meaningful dollars into the state. And we’ve been able to do that. We’re in the process of bringing nearly $900 million into the state. Andy Beshear, when he was attorney general, didn’t bring any money into the state. So this has been about not just talking, again, but taking action so that we can hopefully start to have meaningful change in Kentucky.”
Beshear was attorney general four years, and such suits usually take many years to litigate. Cameron said, “The fortunate thing is that the settlements that we entered into were separate and apart from the litigation that he was involved in here in Kentucky. And so we had to make a decision about, you know, whether we want to continue to talk as he did for four years in this office, or do we want to bring money into the state, and we chose to bring money into the state.”
Asked at his weekly news conference about Cameron’s comments, Beshear said, “I’m a little shocked that the attorney general would say I haven’t brought any dollars in in opioid settlements. I filed more lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors than any other attorney general in the country. I think he filed one. Every single lawsuit he’s settling right now, I not only filed, but I argued personally in court showing up when companies were trying to blame us, for the millions of pills that they sent, hundreds of thousands into really smart communities.
“Listen, as an attorney, you’re always supposed to share credit with other lawyers on the suit on a lawsuit or especially the ones who filed it. And if you’ll remember, I settled. Actually, Attorney General [Jack] Conway settled the first opioid lawsuit on his way out of office, I was able to award those funds, but we gave credit all the way back to Greg Stumbo, who filed that [suit]. So certainly, first, as attorney general, we did bring in funds to help treatment. Look at Hope in the Mountains in Prestonsburg; it was going to close down without those funds that we provided. Now, they’re Medicaid eligible.
“But, I know I filed those lawsuits. I know I did it so that we could have our best shot of getting out of this epidemic. This is blood money that needs to be spent the right way to get people better.”
The list of grants mentioned specific uses in some cases but not in most. Asked for details, Krista Buckell, communications director for the attorney general’s office, merely parroted the law: “Each awardee will be pursuing one or more aspects of prevention or treatment and recovery for individuals and communities that have been impacted by the opioid epidemic across the commonwealth.”
By far the largest grants were $1 million each to Operation UNITE (Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment and Education) of London, for prevention, and Volunteers of America Mid-States of Louisville, for treatment and recovery. The Louisville-based organization says it “operates nearly 50 distinct human service programs in Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia and Clark and Floyd counties in Indiana.”
The other 13 grants for treatment and recovery are going to:
- Shepherd’s House of Lexington, a long-term residential recovery program, $141,450.
- Appalachian Restoration Project, a residential rehabilitation facility in Barbourville, $250,000.
- Chrysalis House of Lexington, Kentucky’s oldest and largest residential treatment program that specializes in treating pregnant and parenting women, $250,000.
- Isaiah House, an addiction treatment center with locations across the state, will get $250,000 to support a “comprehensive, dual diagnosis program to help Kentuckians achieve a lifetime of recovery,” the list says.
- Lake Cumberland District Health Department, which serves 10 counties, $250,000.
- Mountain Comprehensive Care Center of Prestonsburg, $250,000.
- Mountain Comprehensive Health Corp., Whitesburg, $250,000.
- Seven Counties Services, a Louisville-based community mental-health center, $250,000.
- Young People in Recovery of Louisville, which serves youth and young adults recovering from substance use disorder, $308,232.
- Family Scholar House in Louisville, which helps disadvantaged single parents and children reach their educational and career goals, $316,500.
- Lake Cumberland Community Action Agency will get $375,268 for “comprehensive programs that help low-income Kentuckians achieve greater economic self-sufficiency.”
- Appalachian Research and Defense Fund of Kentucky, offering free civil legal help to low-income people in 37 counties, $250,000.
- Revive Ministries of Nicholasville will get $500,000 to support its faith-based addiction recovery program in Central Kentucky.
The other nine prevention-service grant recipients are:
- Kentucky Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs, $500,000.
- Kentucky Harm Reduction Coalition of Louisville, $500,000.
- Legal Aid of the Bluegrass, $250,000. It provides legal assistance to vulnerable Kentuckians.
- Legal Aid Society of Louisville, $250,000 to provide free civil legal help concerning opioid-specific matters to people with incomes at or below federal poverty levels.
- Cumberland Trace Legal Services, dba Kentucky Legal Aid, Bowling Green, $250,000. It provides free legal counsel to those struggling with addiction.
- YMCA of Greater Louisville, $250,000.
- Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky, Lexington, $243,050.
- Taylor County School District, Campbellsville, $100,000.
- Scott County Sheriff, Georgetown, $92,354.13.
Kentucky Health News is an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.
Photo: Operation UNITE was one of 24 organizations to get a grant from the first round of opioid settlement money. It got $1 million to be used for prevention. (Photos by Melissa Patrick)
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