First Lady Jane Beshear and Attorney General Jack Conway announced Tuesday that heroin and opiate overdose reversal kits will be made available to people treated for overdoses at the St. Elizabeth Healthcare system in Northern Kentucky.
The funding will be provided through the Substance Abuse Treatment Advisory Committee.
"This project will allow us to get this medicine into the hands and homes of the people who need it most - heroin users and their families," Attorney General Conway said. "Heroin and opiate abuse is killing Kentuckians, and these kits will save lives and provide a second chance for people to seek treatment for their addictions. I appreciate the legislature following our lead by putting partisan politics aside and passing meaningful heroin legislation that stiffens penalties for large scale traffickers, increases treatment funding, provides for a Good Samaritan defense, and gets Naloxone kits into the hands of first responders and limits the civil liability of those responders."
The hospitals in Kentucky with the highest rates of heroin overdose deaths are receiving funding for the kits. 545 people in 2013 and 745 people in 2014 were treated for heroin overdoses at five hospitals in the St. Elizabeth Healthcare system.
Heroin overdose patients will now receive a kit free of charge when they leave the hospital, so they or a loved one can prevent another overdose event and possibly save a life. The project is already up and running at the hospitals.
"There is evidence the collaborative efforts in our community are having an effect," said Garren Colvin, interim President and CEO of St. Elizabeth Healthcare. "A report earlier this month indicated that heroin-related overdose deaths are down in Northern Kentucky. To continue to battle heroin issues in our community and throughout Kentucky, it is going to take education and collaboration at the local and state levels. No single organization or individual can solve this on their own; success will only come with great teamwork and meaningful partnerships. We are grateful for Kentucky's contribution today."
Gov. Steve Beshear created SATAC by executive order to oversee the KY Kids Recovery grant program and distribution of $32 million in settlement funds that Attorney General Conway secured from two pharmaceutical companies.
The judge required the settlement funds be used to expand treatment in Kentucky. Attorney General Conway chairs the committee and First Lady Jane Beshear serves on the committee.
The committee is providing $105,000 to purchase Naloxone rescue kits for the University of Louisville Hospital, the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington, and the St. Elizabeth Healthcare in Northern Kentucky. About 500 of those kits will go to five hospitals operated by St. Elizabeth Healthcare.
The kits will be provided free of charge to every treated and discharged overdose victim at the pilot project hospitals.
Naloxone, which is also known as Narcan, has no potential for abuse and immediately reverses the effects of a heroin overdose by physiologically blocking the effects of opiates. Right now, it is not covered by Medicaid or many private insurance companies, which means even if users receive a prescription they are unlikely to fill it because they cannot afford it.
Naloxone is available in injectable or nasal mist forms. The nasal mist form must still be approved by the FDA. When approved, health experts believe most insurance companies and Medicaid will begin to cover the costs.
"Narcan kits are critical, lifesaving tools that can help put people on the road to recovery," said Mrs. Beshear. "As Kentuckians expand access to mental health treatment, including addiction recovery, it's more important than ever to have community access to tools like Narcan. Often, an overdose experience is what finally drives people suffering from addiction to seek help."
In 2013, 230 Kentuckians died from heroin overdoses. Final numbers for heroin overdoses in 2014 are not yet available, but the Office of Drug Control Policy estimates heroin was involved in 30 percent of all drug overdose deaths.