LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 5, 2017) – WellCare of Kentucky, a subsidiary of WellCare Health Plans, Inc., announced this week it will award $25,000 in grants to help communities address opioid addiction.
These funds will be awarded to at least a dozen social service programs across Kentucky that have developed opioid addiction support and prevention initiatives that are social serviced based.
The investment was announced Tuesday in Pikeville at the Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) Provider Education Substance Abuse Disorder Summit. Eastern Kentucky has suffered from high rates of opioid abuse and addiction, including the abuse of heroin and fentanyl, and of prescription painkillers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone. According to the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, the three Kentucky counties with the highest overdose death rates per capita are in eastern Kentucky (Leslie, Bell, and Powell).
Today’s announcement marks the second time WellCare, the state’s largest Medicaid managed care organization, has earmarked community grants to solely target one health issue.
“The substance abuse epidemic, especially that of opioids, has impacted everyone in Appalachia Kentucky in some way, shape or form,” said Jared Arnett, executive director of SOAR. “At the foundation of how we combat this issue must be unity. We have to acknowledge the problem exists and work collectively to address it and its impact on families and our communities. One life loss to this disease is one too many. We are thankful for WellCare and its commitment to address this issue.”
The Centers for Disease Control reported that Kentucky is among the five states with the worst rates of opioid overdoses in the country. From 2014 to 2015, Kentucky’s death rate from opioid overdoses jumped 21 percent.
Kentucky’s Office of Drug Control Policy discovered that the fatality rate is highest among middle-aged users – those aged 35-44, followed by users aged 45-54.
WellCare administers these funds, called Hyper-Local-Resource Grants, twice a year. The grants of $1,500 or less support organizations working to improve health outcomes in their communities, and are meant to help provide niche services or seed money for programs with a potential lasting impact.
As the state’s largest provider of Medicaid health care services, WellCare sees the devastating impact drug addiction has on the users, their families, and their communities. WellCare understands that preventing this abuse will improve health across Kentucky, and this grant program is a step toward reaching that goal. Tailored health advocacy efforts in individual communities can be incredibly powerful, and these funds will enable community health leaders, volunteers and student groups to implement strategies in their hometowns to help prevent opioid addiction across Kentucky.