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Kentucky partnering with Bloomberg Philanthropies over five years, $10m to address opioid epidemic

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Gov. Andy Beshear announced Wednesday a five-year public-private partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies, which is committing $10 million to the state to reduce overdoses and save lives, by increasing access to medications and expanding preventative services.

“Winning the battle against the opioid crisis and helping Kentuckians overcome addiction is a top priority for my administration,” said Beshear. “This joint venture will allow us to further deliver the services and support our people need to achieve recovery and prevent future pain and suffering.”

Kentucky is one of seven states – Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin being the others – to partner with Bloomberg Philanthropies in addressing the overdose epidemic.

The Bloomberg Philanthropies Overdose Prevention Initiative also includes partners such as Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and The Pew Charitable Trusts.

“The overdose epidemic is one of the worst public health crises we’ve ever faced,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies. “254 Americans die every single day from drug overdoses. It’s tearing families apart across the country, and we need bolder, nationwide action, especially from the federal government, but we can’t afford to wait until that happens.

“Bloomberg Philanthropies is expanding our work to confront the crisis, by building on the data-driven approach we’ve taken in Pennsylvania and Michigan, where we’ve made some important progress.”

According to the governor’s office, after a 15% reduction in overdose deaths from 2017 to 2018, a decrease larger than the national average, Kentucky’s statewide numbers began an upward trend in late 2019. In 2020, 1,964 Kentuckians died from drug overdoses, setting a record for the most deaths recorded in a 12-month period in the state and representing a 49% increase from the previous year.

The increased overdose rate in Kentucky has largely been driven by synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. The presence of fentanyl analogues in other substances, including stimulants and pressed pills, has also exacerbated the crisis. While an increase in mortality rates were observed across all genders, age brackets, races and regions of the state, the largest increase in drug overdose deaths has been among Black Kentuckians at 64%.

The four guiding principles for the overdose prevention services are:

• Equity. Ensuring all populations benefit equally and focusing on communities that have been most impacted.

• Quality. Rooted in science and promising innovations.
• Scale. Ensuring interventions are implemented widely throughout communities and institutions.

• Sustainability. Building state infrastructure with laws/policies and adequate funding.

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