CLARK COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — Senator Mitch McConnell continued his trip around Kentucky with a stop in Winchester to announce new funding to combat the opioid epidemic which turned into a conversation about pandemic relief.
Joined by Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Jim Carroll, McConnell announced about half a million dollars will be allocated to Clark, Simpson and Logan counties to combat substance abuse.
This assistance is part of the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program in which only 15 counties in the country were designated; Kentucky has three.
McConnell explained the pandemic has only made matters worse during a year that started out with a 25 percent spike in fatal overdoses in the first quarter.
"Thirty-six of our counties have been included over the years in these heightened designation(s) so that's a clear recognition of how challenging this, this whole matter is. And it didn't take a break during the pandemic it's actually got worse," said McConnell. "As you can imagine, with everybody, cooped up at home, it created a whole different set of challenges for America: spousal abuse up, drug abuse up, suicides up."
Carroll made it clear his team will take direction from the local leaders. He said, "They can tell us, 'In this county, we need equipment. In this county, you know, we need overtime for officers to want to work additional cases.' This is why, you know, I'm emphasizing that these are small solutions for big problems. And, you know, that's why we rely on the men and women on the street to do this."
The conversation during McConnell's briefing quickly turned to the pandemic which he said is clearly not over, encouraging everyone to wear a mask.
"It's clear it's the right thing to do," stated McConnell. "It's time we take responsibility not only for our own health but for the health of others. We don't know enough about this disease yet to be sure that we cannot be a carrier even if we're not testing positive. So I think the responsible thing to do is to put your mask on and practice social distancing and help us get through this until we get a vaccine."
He also discussed the Federal government's commitment to supporting Kentucky. He said 48,000 Kentucky small businesses took advantage of the Payment Protection Program to the tune of $5.2 billion.
He said, "All of that I think had a positive impact. And when we passed the last of a series of the CARES Acts, I said we take another look at it in July, and see where we were. Bearing in mind we had added $3 trillion to the national debt and now have a national debt the size of our economy for the first time since World War II which is not insignificant."
McConnell also touched on what he expects to be included in the next stimulus relief package. He said he believes it will included liability protection for institutions such as schools and hospitals, a focus on kids in schools and assistance for those who make $40,000 or less a year.
He said he expects the Senate to address this next package in the next few weeks.