Illegal drug use in Kentucky has reached epidemic proportions and affects every segment of society in the Bluegrass State. As with cancer, it’s a rare family that hasn’t been directly touched by drug addiction or known a family that has. We’re losing productivity, time and resources fighting this almost-impossible-to-contain problem— and, worst by far, we’re losing people.
Kentucky has been hit harder with this crisis than many other U.S. states. According to a recent Kentucky Chamber of Commerce publication, Kentucky ranked seventh in the nation in the number of opioid prescriptions and fourth in the nation in drug overdoses in 2017. More than 1,500 Kentuckians died that year as a result of overdoses. To put that number in perspective, that’s roughly double the number of people who died in highway accidents in Kentucky during the same period.
The troubling news is that there is no end in sight. The 2017 statistics are more than 11 percent higher than those from 2016. Just last month, the Northern Kentucky Drug Strike Force indicted 20 people on a variety of drug charges involving methamphetamine and fentanyl in the small Ohio River town of Dayton, Kentucky, a town with around 5,400 residents. The six-month operation, named Operation River Sweep, highlights the fact that serious drug use is not limited to big cities.
Said Dayton Police Chief, David Halfhill, “Dayton doesn’t have major drug dealers, but the users he does see often travel to Covington or Cincinnati for drugs and sell amongst (sic) themselves. It’s a group that doesn’t want to work or contribute to society.” He feels they have no choice but to arrest them for the good of the community. Other Kentucky cities, from Bowling Green to Lexington to Paducah, are having the same problem.
How the Drug Treatment System in Kentucky Is Broken
As in the operation in Dayton, too often the “solution” to drug addiction and use is to imprison the users. Yes, this gets them off of the streets where they may influence others to use drugs and commit crimes to help fund their habits, but it does little to help the individual user. Unfortunately, many individuals who are interested in seeking treatment find the system confusing and overwhelming. Too often, government agencies throw money at a one-size-fits-all approach to drug treatment. Many times, insurance only offers one treatment option. When that doesn’t work, the individual becomes frustrated and drops out of treatment. Clearly, our system is broken.
How Kentucky Employers Are Stepping Up
Despite the misconception that drug addiction is a problem for other people, those who live in different neighborhoods and who don’t work, the truth is very different. People struggling with drug addiction are often our neighbors, the people who sit in the pew next to us at church, the people we see in the grocery check out line and those we work with. For this reason, employers all over Kentucky, from Louisville to Frankfort to Berea, are stepping up and taking an active part in making alternative treatment options available to those who work for them. They are beginning to realize that getting involved in this battle is essential to attracting and retaining good employees. Jonathan Copley, CEO of Aetna Better Health of Kentucky, puts it like this, “As business leaders, we cannot sit idle in the face of this epidemic. We must be an active part of the solution to recover our citizens and our workforce.”
To make this easier for employees, the Kentucky Chamber Workforce Center has set up The Response Program for Business in conjunction with Aetna, the state cabinets of Health and Family Services and Justice & Public Safety and the bio-pharmaceutical firm Alkermes. This program, the first of its kind in the United States, seeks to audit Kentucky company’s drug testing programs and “recommend best practices to maintain a drug-free workplace while supporting a recovery-friendly culture.” They also want to remove the stigma associated with drug addiction and make it more socially acceptable within the workplace for an individual to seek treatment for drug addiction.
FHE Health supports the efforts of Kentucky government and private agencies to help curb drug use and treat drug addiction. If you or someone you care about is struggling with addiction to opioids or other drugs, we invite you to call us today at 1-888-779-2523. Our experienced and caring team of recovery counselors is waiting to take your call anytime of the day and night. Today can be the first day of your new life in recovery.