UK launches HEALing Communities study to reduce overdose deaths

Posted at 2:12 PM, Oct 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-07 18:37:43-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The University of Kentucky has once again gotten involved in the fight against opioid addiction and now UK is one of four sites in the country to be selected for a new study.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was at Kroger Field on Monday morning, along with other political and local leaders, to announce the study's launch.

"This is a national crisis that hits Kentucky particularly hard," said Rep. Andy Barr. "We're grateful for the attention this is getting."

When it comes to helping people overcome an opioid addiction, UK has launched a new study to look at each step of the way - prevention, treatment and recovery assistance.

"Healing is possible. A save life is possible. Restored dignity is possible. Renewed family is possible. A rebuilt future is possible," said UK President Eli Capilouto. "That's what is at stake here."

UK is one of four sites in the U.S. selected to help with the HEALing Communities Initiative and it received an $87 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. This has become the largest federal grant in the school's history.

UK plans on focusing on reducing overdose deaths in 16 counties across the state by seeing what resources are already available and filling in the gaps.

"Treatment providers, places where we may be able to connect to individuals who need care like the jail, parole and probation, the court system, the syringe service program, emergency departments, places like that, where maybe we're not doing such a good job right now of screening and it may be because we don't have resources in place or expertise, so we want to deploy those," said Sharon Walsh, director at the UK Center for Drug and Alcohol Research.

Specifically, the goal is to reduce opioid-related deaths by 40 percent over three years. McConnell called this an ambitious goal, but one the state is ready for.

"This is quite an assignment and I'm pretty sure we're up for the job," said McConnell.

Kentucky is currently ranked fifth in the country for opioid-related deaths.