Lexington receives $2 million grant to fight opioid abuse

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Lexington has funds for additional weapons to use in the war on opioid abuse thanks to a $2 million federal grant.

“This is a public health emergency and we’ve worked hard to put programs in place that our citizens need,” Lexington Mayor Jim Gray said. “This grant will help us build on those programs.”

The grant, which stretches over four years, will largely be used for naloxone kits to be distributed through the Health Department, and to supply deputies at the Sheriff’s Office.

“We will also hire an overdose prevention coordinator … someone to get people who have overdosed into treatment,” Gray said.

In addition, the grant will fund outreach efforts to help people understand the “Good Samaritan Law,” which provides legal protections for individuals who call for emergency assistance in the event of a drug overdose. For example, the caller would be protected from charges for crimes such as drug possession, or drug paraphernalia possession.

Gray thanked both U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Congressman Andy Barr for their support of the city’s grant application.

Since 2015, the city and community partners have increased their efforts to prevent opioid overdoses through a variety of programs, including the needle exchange operated by the Health Department, establishment of a Substance Abuse Intervention Program, treatment programs at the Detention Center, equipping police and firefighters with naloxone, workshops at area churches, an on-line service directory for treatment programs, joining a class action lawsuit to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable, and hiring the University of Kentucky College of Medicine to conduct a needs assessment concerning the opioid epidemic in Lexington.

The results of that study will be presented to Urban County Council members on Tuesday.

“Coupled with the findings of the recent needs assessment, this grant award will strengthen Lexington overdose prevention networks, by expanding local infrastructure and availability to resources,” said Chris Ford, the city’s commissioner of social services. “This is a major step forward in helping residents impacted by substance use disorder find recovery and regain health.”

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