Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission Meets for First Time

The commission that will administer Kentucky’s portion of the historic opioid settlement met for the first time on Tuesday in Frankfort. Members of the Kentucky Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission (KY OAAC) will oversee the state’s half of an estimated $478 million from a national lawsuit with drug manufacturer Johnson & Johnson and distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson. Last week, KY OAAC Executive Director Bryan Hubbard updated the Budget Review Subcommittee on Human Resources on the settlement payment schedule.

Rep. Danny Bentley (R-Russell) serves on the commission and sponsored House Bill 92 this year. That KLC initiative clarified how Kentucky distributes funds and provides direct payments to cities. House Bill 427, a 2021 KLC initiative, requires 50% of Kentucky’s settlement go to city and county governments to fund opioid abatement programs.

Bentley joined the first meeting via Zoom. A pharmacist by trade, he expressed a desire to continue educating all involved in the recovery process so that the commission’s eventual recommendations will have the most impact on Kentucky’s opioid crisis.

Commissioners heard presentations from the Kentucky Opioid Response Effort (KORE) and Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy (KODCP) regarding current initiatives and programs Kentucky is implementing to address opioid abuse and recovery support. State and federal resources currently fund those efforts.

KORE Program Director Dr. Katie Marks said 14,052 Kentuckians received treatment services, 9,510 received recovery services, and KORE distributed 53,820 naloxone units in Fiscal Year 2021.

Van Ingram with ODCP provided an overview of the current priority initiatives and the level of funding legislators created with Senate Bill 192 (2015) and House Bill 352 (2020). The $16.3 million provides funding for numerous programs including $2 million for Department of Public Advocacy (DPA) social workers for defendants, $3 million in neonatal abstinence syndrome work through the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS), and $2.5 million for CHFS community health centers.

The commission created subcommittees to address prevention, treatment and recovery, and reform and compliance. They will meet again on August 29, October 4, November 15, and December 13. Commissioners intend to gather in other locations including Ashland, Bowling Green, Covington, Hazard, Lexington, Louisville, Paducah, and Pikeville.

KY OAAC Executive Director W. Bryan Hubbard said that a website portal should open in October to receive grant applications for the state’s portion of funds. Kentucky will award the first round of grants in January.