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Pence Ties Kentucky Overdose Decline To Funding, Border Security

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AP Photo/John Minchillo
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Vice President Mike Pence announced millions in new federal funding to help combat Kentucky’s opioid crisis during an appearance in Manchester Thursday – and linked the drug problem to the border. 

The former Indiana governor is no stranger to the commonwealth, having made multiple trips to the state to stump for President Donald Trump’s agenda in the region. This time, Pence announced the Department of Health and Human Service is awarding nearly $10 million in additional grants to fight addiction – out of nearly $400 million being spent nationwide.

But Pence said it’s Kentucky that’s leading the way.

"Overdose deaths have been reduced by nearly 15 percent," the vice president said. "Well done, Kentucky. That's amazing." 

Pence also used the speech to echo the president’s priorities at the U.S.-Mexico border, tying them to the state’s drug problem.

"I'll make you a promise, Kentucky. We're going to secure our border. We're going to end the crisis of illegal immigration on our southern border. We're also going to stop the flow of illegal drugs into America and into Kentucky," the vice president declared. 

Former U.S. Customs and Border Protection director Gil Kerlikowske told NPR in April that over 90 percent of the most serious overdose-causing drugs – methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, fentanyl – come through legal ports of entry or the international postal service.

During his trip, Pence was also briefed by military commanders on the Innovative Readiness Training program, which has medical troops log training hours by providing services in struggling Kentucky communities.

Taking questions from reporters on the way in, Governor Matt Bevin said President Donald Trump is unlikely to meet with protesting Blackjewel miners but he is there “in spirit.” The Republican did comment that he and the president have the support of the miners who have been blocking train tracks until they are paid money they say they are owed by the bankrupt coal company. 

"(President Trump) had people like me make sure I communicated that, so trust me, this president and this vice president understand this like nobody that we've ever had," the governor said. 

Pence added, "American coal knows that President Trump, our entire administration, are with them and will continue to stand with them as we continue to develop all of the energy resources of this country in the days ahead." 

Bevin’s rival in the 2019 governor’s race, Attorney General Andy Beshear, has called on Bevin to fire state labor Secretary David Dickerson, whom he says failed to secure a bond from Blackjewel that could have solved the problem.

"His job is to look out for our workers, but he failed to secure the bond from Blackjewel that could have paid the coal miners in Harlan County. It's time for him to go," Beshear tweeted.

In response, the governor called Beshear a “buffoon” for making the suggestion.

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