Cities Receiving Opioid Abatement Funds

Legislators heard from Executive Director of the Kentucky Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission (KOAAC) Bryan Hubbard during Thursday’s Interim Joint Committee on Local Government meeting at the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville. He said the funds will be paid out over the next 15 years, with the final installment coming in 2038. The first round of grant awards totaled $8 million. The money went to 24 different organizations. “I am pleased to report that that funding supplied support in all of the 120 counties of the commonwealth,” Hubbard said.

“We want to make sure that everybody understands our strategic approach to the use of these dollars to maximize what is going to be a one-time revenue stream coming in from the settlement that has been negotiated by Attorney General Daniel Cameron,” Hubbard said. He explained that 50% of the money will go to cities and counties, and the state will use the other 50% for grants. “All funds, whether for the local governments or to the commission, must be used for opioid abatement,” he added.

Kentucky League of Cities Director of Public Affairs Bryanna L. Carroll testified before the committee and said the funds are highly restricted, which creates the need for cities to be creative in the use of the money they receive. “Some cities are trying to purchase Naloxone, and they are paying for emergency services for substance use disorders. You’ll also find that some cities are using their funds for education of law enforcement and first responders on practices and precautions when dealing with people experiencing substance use disorders,” Carroll said. “Because of the limited settlement dollars, we are finding that many cities are also leveraging those dollars with partners and allies including other cities, their local nonprofits, businesses, and working together with their counties to pool those resources.”

Somerset Mayor Alan Keck said he visited the Lifelong Learning Center in northern Kentucky and learned about a program helping people in recovery learn skills and return to the local workforce. “I saw a program that was equal parts compassion and accountability. I saw a heart to make sure that these folks had not just an opportunity to get off drugs but to get back into the workforce where they could restore their sense of value and dignity,” Keck said. “When I saw this program, I said something like that has to happen in Somerset. I want our citizens who are struggling to have that type of life change. What we intend to do is partner with folks like Lifelong Learning Center, but we’re issuing a challenge to our private-sector employers. This is not just the government’s job. We want you to invest in your own workforce by matching these monies dollar for dollar and extend this program, and we’re seeing them step up. This is not benevolence from the private sector. If done properly, this will be an investment in our workforce, in our own people, and they are stepping up very quickly, so I’m excited to be a small part of this solution for Somerset and Pulaski County.”

Corbin Mayor Suzie Razmus also testified to the committee and said her city is working with Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) and Volunteers of America to duplicate EKU’s Scholar House program. EKU currently offers the program on its main campus in Richmond, but Razmus said she also wanted to bring it to the Corbin campus.

“I started dreaming, and I looked at EKU’s Scholar House in Richmond. I loved that idea,” she said. “The city is in no position to run something like that. We brought in Volunteers of America to help make this a reality for us. The city, with our opioid settlement dollars, would like to fix the transportation puzzle. The EKU campus is right next to our industrial park, and there are workforce issues there. These individuals could have a safe place when they come out of a program to live in a scholar house, go to school, and further their education – to be what they dreamed of before they were affected by drugs. EKU is a willing participant, and so is VOA, so the City of Corbin is really excited about this project.”

Alecia Webb Edgington is president and CEO of Lifelong Learning Center and a former state legislator. She testified about her organization’s work helping people in recovery return to the workforce. Edgington said that involves a job and a living wage. She added that her program teaches those in addiction that regaining their dignity involves work or post-secondary education. Lifelong Learning Center partners with employers to help those suffering from addiction find jobs while in recovery. Edgington said the program has put people back to work and added $4.8 million to the workforce this year.

Some legislators had questions about the funding and how the KOAAC would ensure the funds were used properly. Hubbard said the KOAAC has to achieve three strategic goals, including developing a child-based infrastructure that defeats the generational drug problem, removing barriers for those trying to recover, and continuing to look for new and more effective treatment options.