Home » Op-Ed: Kentucky nurses play critical role in addiction treatment & recovery

Op-Ed: Kentucky nurses play critical role in addiction treatment & recovery

by Tim Robinson, president and CEO of Addiction Recovery Care
Tim Robinson

When it comes to our health, the right care provider can make all the difference. Suppose you’ve ever been in the doctor’s office, urgent care or hospital for a broken bone, bad virus or the birth of a child. In that case, you understand the great comfort that a caring medical team can offer – not only to the person receiving care but to his or her loved ones, as well.

At the core of many medical teams is a nurse, or team of nurses, whose job is ensuring you have what you need to get or stay on the road to better health. Their presence can be a major source of relief in even the most difficult situations.

One part of the nursing workforce that often goes overlooked is those supporting Kentuckians with substance use disorders. Across Addiction Recovery Care’s inpatient and outpatient programs, nurses serve a critical and lifesaving role delivering care, counsel and treatment to our community members who have decided to pursue recovery. In addition, a nurse is one of the first medical professionals our clients encounter when coming to treatment, becoming a trusted, familiar face over time.

Unfortunately, Kentucky is facing a nursing shortage – one so dire that it prompted an emergency order from Gov. Beshear late last year. Since then, many important conversations have been taking place around what can be done at both the state and federal levels to retain and grow our nursing workforce.

Kentucky has been blessed with multiple outstanding nursing programs at our colleges and universities. Students pursuing a degree or certification in nursing have numerous options in different regions so they can find something that aligns with their schedule and location.

Nationally, we’ve seen programs like the Health Resources & Services Administration’s Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Recovery Loan Repayment Program – an initiative championed by Congressman Hal Rogers which offers up to $25,000 in loan repayment for nurses and other health care professionals working in areas hit especially hard by the addiction crisis.

Two years into the pandemic, COVID-19 continues to stretch our limited health care resources very thin while fanning the flames of other public health crises like the addiction epidemic. As a result, substance use is rising across the board, and Kentucky’s overdose death rate is back on an upward trajectory despite the great progress we were making in the leadup to 2020.

Demand for addiction treatment and mental health services will only continue to rise in the coming months and years, which is why we must tackle Kentucky’s nursing shortage now. And like so many other big issues facing the Commonwealth today, this is something that will take a multifaceted and collaborative effort to resolve across our entire health care system.

For those considering a career in nursing or who have chosen this profession already, I urge you not to overlook the vital and impactful work being done in the field of addiction recovery. The nurses I’ve had the privilege of working with here at Addiction Recovery Care are some of the most selfless individuals I’ve ever met. They are top-notch medical professionals who are genuinely committed not just to physically treating the men and women who walk through our doors but are all-in on their clients’ recovery journeys and helping them find hope and purpose.

If you have battled a substance use disorder yourself or know someone who has, you know that the journey to recovery is not an easy one. We’re grateful for the dedicated nurses who show up for their clients each and every day with compassion, positivity and medical expertise, and we hope to see more Kentuckians fill these much-needed roles in the years to come.

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