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Lexington receives $2 million grant to combat illegal drugs, overdoses

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Amy Wallot/LFUCG/Amy Wallot
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Aug. 18, 2022. Photo by Amy Wallot

“The impact of illegal drugs has been devastating since the pandemic, when we experienced a dramatic increase in overdose fatalities that no one could have predicted,” Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton said. “The overdose numbers have increased every year since the pandemic. More than 2,200 Kentuckians died from drug overdoses in 2021, a 14.5% increase over 2020.”

The 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimates that 9.6% of adult Kentuckians used an illicit drug in the past 30 days, and that 6.0% met criteria for an illicit drug use disorder in the past year. Direct application of these estimates to Lexington’s adult population suggests that 24,525 adults used illicit drugs in the past 30 days, and 15,329 have met the criteria for an illicit drug use disorder in the past year.

Lexington was recently awarded a $2 million federal grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that will allow the city to continue working with partners to provide life-saving naloxone to people at risk of overdose, and to connect them with life-saving services.

“Our first step has to be saving lives,” Gorton said. “Next comes helping with treatment. We greatly appreciate the partners who work with us, and the contributions of the members of the Mayor’s Substance Use Disorder Advisory Council, who are we are helping us administer the grant funding.”

The new grant will allow the City to continue its “Leave Behind Program,” where members of the Lexington Fire Department follow-up with individuals who survived an overdose. The program provides naloxone and overdose prevention training, and connects the survivor with service providers.

Additionally, the grant will provide naloxone for Lexington police officers to carry in their cruisers. In the course of their work, Police distribute approximately 150 doses of naloxone a year.

In 2018 the City was awarded a $2 million federal grant to help it strengthen the overdose prevention infrastructure. Under that grant, the city, working with the Fayette County Health Department, has provided more than $1 million in naloxone to individuals at increased risk of overdose, and to those who want to be ready if they witness or suspect an overdose.

Almost 14,000 naloxone kits were provided to individuals and programs and more than 130 overdose prevention trainings and naloxone distributions were held.

Hospitals, substance use disorder treatment programs, recovery residences, shelters, hotels, domestic violence and sexual assault prevention programs, fraternity houses and many other locations throughout the City learned how to respond to overdose and are equipped with naloxone as a result of outreach funded through the first grant.