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Kentucky Association of Counties


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16 counties targeted for help through $87 million grant awarded to U.K.

Photo: National Institutes of Health
By Jennifer Burnett
The University of Kentucky has been awarded an $87 million federal grant – the largest in the institution’s history – to reduce opioid deaths by 40 percent in 16 counties in the Commonwealth.

The grant was announced by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) last week as part of the HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-Term) Initiative. The NIH selected four research sites in four states hard hit by the opioid crisis including Kentucky, Ohio, Massachusetts and New York.

The 16 counties included in the study are: Bourbon, Boyd, Boyle, Campbell, Carter, Clark, Fayette, Floyd, Franklin, Greenup, Jefferson, Jessamine, Kenton, Knox, Madison and Mason counties.


Graphic source: National Institutes of Health

More than $350 million will support the multi-year study under a cooperative agreement supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health, and aims to reduce overdose deaths by 40 percent over three years by testing a set of proven prevention and treatment interventions, such as distribution of naloxone to reverse overdose and linking individuals in the criminal justice system with treatment for opioid addiction.

“The HEALing Communities Study is an exciting, unprecedented effort to support communities in using and expanding our scientific understanding of effective interventions. It is a major new step in local and national efforts that are beginning to turn the tide on this public health crisis,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in a press release.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that Kentucky had the tenth highest opioid-related overdose deaths per 100,000 people among states: 23.6 in 2016. Kentucky also had the tenth highest number of opioid prescriptions written– 97 opioid prescriptions were written per 100 Kentuckians in 2015.



Graphic Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse


According to the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, substance abuse, particularly the diversion and abuse of prescription drugs along with heroin and illicit fentanyl, remains one of the most critical public health and safety issues facing Kentucky. Over the past ten years, the number of Kentuckians who die each year from overdose has grown steadily and now stands at more than 1,500 per year.

People ages 35 to 44 were the largest demographic in overdose deaths in Kentucky in 2017, followed by those ages 45 to 54. Counties with the highest number of overdose deaths per capita included Estill, Kenton, Campbell, Boyd and Mason counties.


Graphic Source: Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy