Kentucky: Bloomberg Philanthropies Aims to Reduce Overdose Deaths

Gov. Beshear: Bloomberg Philanthropies Partnership Aims to Reduce Overdose Deaths in Kentucky

FRANKFORT, KY (STL.News) Gov. Andy Beshear announced a partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies, which is committing $10 million to the commonwealth with the goal of reducing overdoses and saving lives by increasing access to medications and expanding preventative services.

“Winning the battle against the opioid crisis and helping Kentuckians overcome addiction is a top priority for my administration,” said Gov. Beshear.  “This joint venture will allow us to further deliver the services and support our people need to achieve recovery and prevent future pain and suffering.”

Kentucky is among six other states – Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – to partner with Bloomberg Philanthropies in addressing the overdose epidemic.

This public-private partnership has a five-year timeline.  The Bloomberg Philanthropies Overdose Prevention Initiative also includes partners such as Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Pew Charitable Trusts and more.

“The overdose epidemic is one of the worst public health crises we’ve ever faced – 254 Americans die every single day from drug overdoses.  It’s tearing families apart across the country, and we need bolder, nationwide action, especially from the federal government – but we can’t afford to wait until that happens,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies and WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries, who announced the investment at the Bloomberg American Health Summit.  “Bloomberg Philanthropies is expanding our work to confront the crisis, by building on the data-driven approach we’ve taken in Pennsylvania and Michigan, where we’ve made some important progress.  We will now begin working in five more states: Kentucky, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Wisconsin. We know we can save lives from this crisis, and we will.”

After a 15% reduction in overdose deaths from 2017 to 2018 – a decrease larger than the national average – Kentucky’s statewide numbers began an upward trend in late 2019.  In 2020, 1,964 Kentuckians died from drug overdoses, setting a record for the most deaths recorded in a 12-month period in the commonwealth and representing a 49% increase in drug overdose deaths compared to the year prior.

The increased overdose rate in Kentucky has largely been driven by synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.  The presence of fentanyl analogues in other substances, including stimulants and pressed pills, has also exacerbated the crisis.  While an increase in mortality rates were observed across all genders, age brackets, races and regions of the state, the largest increase in drug overdose deaths has been among Black Kentuckians at 64%.

The guiding principles for the overdose prevention services are: equity – ensuring all populations benefit equally and focusing on communities that have been most impacted; quality – rooted in science and promising innovations; scale – ensuring interventions are implemented widely throughout communities and institutions; and sustainability – building state infrastructure with laws/policies and adequate funding.

“We recognize that we need to bring to bear every resource possible to address the public health crisis of addiction,” said Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Eric Friedlander.  “There is no single cause or cure.  The disease of addiction is complex, multi-factorial and intersects with many long-standing priorities and challenges related to health, wellness, economic security and justice.  We look forward to this collaborative partnership, lives saved and the recovery of many more Kentuckians.”