McConnell announces another multi-million-dollar grant to former Gov. Fletcher’s firm to help build housing for drug treatment

by Kentucky Health News
Former Gov. Ernie Fletcher

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that he helped get $3.3 million for the Fletcher Group, a nonprofit founded by former Gov. Ernie Fletcher, to build housing for rural people in drug recovery.

“With the help of the Fletcher Group’s targeted prevention, treatment and enforcement programs, Kentucky’s rural communities can take a stand against addiction and save lives,” McConnell said in a news release.

However, Andrew Howard, a former McConnell aide who is the Fletcher Group’s policy director, told John Cheves of the Lexington Herald-Leader that the firm doesn’t provide care or own facilities. 

“Rural communities often have capacity challenges,” Howard said. “You’ll have one kind of spark plug in the community that’s wearing multiple hats, and they don’t have that capacity to understand or to figure out or to find information about new best practices or recovery housing programs. So that’s where we come in — to be boots on the ground and walk with those community stakeholders.” 

Howard told Cheves that this latest round of funding will help the Fletcher Group and its partners to accomplish several specific projects in Kentucky, including the opening of a recovery home in Bell County for pregnant women and new mothers that will offer holistic treatment and job training and a pilot project at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in Cumberland to help recruit and train certified peer support specialists. 

The Fletcher Group is one of three “rural centers of excellence” that have shared in many millions of dollars in drug-abuse grants in recent years from the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“We serve any HRSA-designated rural community in the U.S.; however, we have had a significant focus on Kentucky’s rural communities,” Fletcher Group CEO Dave Johnson told Kentucky Health News. “There are 103 HRSA-designated rural counties in Kentucky, of the 120 Kentucky counties. Over the past four years we have provided consultation, training, education, and research in 47.” 

Cheves reports, “The Fletcher Group, founded in 2017, has locations in London and at the home of Ernie Fletcher and his wife, Glenna, near Sarasota, Fla. It employs more than 30 people working out of 13 states. From 2018 to 2021, it collected nearly $8.8 million in public funds, with steadily rising revenues, according to its most recently available tax returns.”

Howard told Cheves that McConnell announced previous HHS grants for The Fletcher Group of $6.66 million in 2019, $3.33 million in 2021, and $1.68 million from the Appalachian Regional Commission in 2019. Cheves reports that the firm “has paid the Washington lobbying firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld at least $120,000 a year since 2018 to lobby congressional spending committees on its behalf, according to federal lobbying disclosures.”

Cheves adds, “Ernie and Glenna Fletcher together collected $850,345 in compensation from The Fletcher Group during the three years from 2019 to 2021, according to the nonprofit’s tax filings. Each of them is identified as co-chair and co-founder of The Fletcher Group. Additionally, Ernie Fletcher is listed as chief medical officer.” 

During his tenure as governor, in 2003-07, the Republican established a recovery housing program called “Recovery Kentucky” that continued under Steve Beshear, the Democrat who ousted him in the 2007 election. The firm’s website says the program inspired Fletcher to extend this recovery model nationwide.

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.

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