Mayor announces an estimated $31.8 million in opioid settlement funds as leaders observe International Overdose Awareness Day

August 31, 2022

City expanding harm reduction efforts to prevent overdose deaths

 LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Aug. 31, 2022) — Mayor Greg Fischer today announced the city will receive and estimated $31.8 million in opioid settlement funds to buoy the city’s efforts to help people with substance abuse disorders.

Five years ago this month, Louisville was one of the first cities to join what became a national, multi-district litigation to hold drug companies and distributors responsible, “for dumping millions of opioids in our neighborhoods while refusing to monitor, identify, report and halt suspicious shipments of these drugs,” the Mayor said.

This month, the settlement was approved as a result of the actions of the companies that led to addiction and death. In the settlement, Jefferson County will receive an estimated $31.8 million over 18 years, with two payments totaling approximately $3.5 million expected to be paid by the end of this year.

“The money recovered from the companies is soft solace, but these are damages paid for damages caused,” said the Mayor.

“This settlement comes too late for my son Matt and the countless other families in Kentucky who have lost a loved one to substance abuse disorder,” said Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell, calling the opioid case one of his proudest achievements. “The resources Jefferson County funds with this settlement—the treatment beds, the wraparound services for those caught up in the justice system, the prevention efforts, or whatever else may come—can serve as tribute to the goodness we have lost but can never get back. This settlement offers a chance to act and to heal.”

In the coming months, the Louisville Metro Public Health and Wellness team will assemble multiple agencies throughout Louisville Metro Government to seek public input to develop a plan to determine how the funds will best be used to help the community with opioid issues. That plan will then be presented to Metro Council for their input and their approval.

 International Overdose Awareness Day

In observance of International Overdose Awareness Day, the Mayor was joined by Dr. Jeff Howard, interim director at the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness (LMPHW); Jerry Collins, director of the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections (LMDC); Dr. Katie Marks, project director with the Kentucky Opioid Response Effort (KORE); and Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell to remember the lives lost due to overdose and announce expanded efforts to prevent overdose deaths.

Mayor Fischer led a moment of silence and announced that the Big Four Bridge, Metro Hall and the Clock Tower will be lit in purple, a symbol to raise awareness about overdose and to acknowledge the grief of family and friends of people who died from overdose.

“Trauma, isolation, and an increasingly toxic illicit drug supply associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have only worsened the current overdose crisis,” said the Mayor. “Inequities in the distribution of resources, along with a failed War on Drugs and persistent stigma against people who use drugs, have prevented our residents at highest risk of fatal drug poisoning from accessing life-saving services and support. We have lost far too many Louisvillians to overdose, and we are asking the entire community to help us prevent more deaths.”  

According to the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy’s 2021 Overdose Fatality Report, there were 2,250 deaths in the state last year. That is a 14.5% increase from 2020. The report shows an opioid was involved in 90% of all overdose deaths in Kentucky in 2021 and fentanyl was detected in 70% of those cases. In Jefferson County alone, the report shows there were 477 drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl in 2021 and 250 overdose deaths involving methamphetamine. So far in 2022, there have been more than 300 overdose deaths in Jefferson County and 250 of those have involved fentanyl, according to data from the coroner’s office.

“In recent years, overdose deaths involving fentanyl – a deadly synthetic opioid – have quadrupled. Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin, and many people consume it without knowing because they don’t realize it’s in a product they are using,” the Mayor said. “Harm reduction strategies like readily accessible Narcan, fentanyl test strips and safety planning are now more vital than ever.”

 LMDC: Expanded harm reduction initiatives

The Louisville Metro Department of Corrections has been working with Public Health and Wellness to prevent overdose deaths among people who are incarcerated at LMDC and those in the home incarceration program.

Narcan available in LMDC

Recently, as part of a pilot program, Narcan was placed in 15 dorms at LMDC. If a person is overdosing, another person can quickly access the overdose reversal drug and administer it. In one of the dorms, a Narcan cabinet with an alarm system is set up. When the cabinet is accessed the alarm sounds, alerting staff that someone needs immediate medical attention. The goal is to eventually have Narcan cabinets with alarms set up in all LMDC dorms. Already, all corrections officers are trained in the use of Narcan.

Also, as part of the Reducing Overdose After Re-entry program, people leaving LMDC after experiencing withdrawal are provided free Narcan, and people entering the home incarceration program are given access to the overdose reversal medication. To date, more than 7,000 doses of Narcan have been provided to people leaving LMDC.

"In the last 12 months Metro Corrections has lost four incarcerated individuals because of overdose. It is our job to protect everyone, including those in jail and facing criminal charges. We believe these new harm reduction efforts will save lives,” Collins said. “However, we are committed to do even more to prevent incarcerated individuals from dying under our watch and that includes prosecuting anyone who brings this poison into our facilities."

MORE program now focusing on people who are incarcerated

With generous support from the Kentucky Opioid Response Effort (KORE), the Medication Oriented Recovery and Enhancement (MORE) program has transitioned from an outpatient clinic to solely focusing on those who are incarcerated. Currently, the program is providing methadone medicated assisted therapy and counseling services to those who become housed at LMDC and who have been participating in a treatment program with another provider. The goal is to make sure they continue their medication and services while housed at LMDC. Services are also being provided to pregnant women with opioid use disorder at LMDC as well as at Volunteers of America’s Freedom House regardless of whether they have a treatment provider.

“Saving lives requires a deep and sustained community-level commitment to a full continuum of accessible services and support,” said Dr. Marks, project director of KORE. “The Cabinet for Health and Family Services and Kentucky Opioid Response Effort is honored to fund the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness as they lead by example to embed harm reduction strategies and values in this community.”

Funding for a health kiosk

As part of the HEALing Communities Study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Serivces Administration (SAMSHA), a no-cost Narcan vending machine will be installed in the exit lobby of LMDC. It is expected to be in place by the end of the year.

 LMPHW: Harm reduction services

Launch of the Quick Response Team

In July of 2021, as part of a collaboration between EMS and LMPHW, a Quick Response Team (QRT) was formed in Jefferson County. The team is made up of compassionate public health professionals. After EMS responds to an overdose call, the QRT is deployed to meet with the individual, supply them with Narcan, and connect them to social support and treatment services. All services provided by this program have been generously funded by the Kentucky Opioid Response Effort.

Since it was launched, the QRT team has:

  • Connected with more than 200 people who have experienced overdose and more than 280 family members.
  • Provided nearly 50 referrals to treatment.
  • Distributed more than 1,000 doses of Narcan.

Expansion of outreach services

Louisville’s harm reduction outreach services are internationally recognized, evidence-based practices that prevent overdose deaths and reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis C. LMPHW, in partnership with UK – Target Four and the Kentucky Harm Reduction Coalition, have expanded the program from one fixed mobile unit on Gray St. to 11 locations across Jefferson County.

Since it began in 2015, the program has:

  • Assisted more than 26,000 unique participants.
  • Has connected 789 people who tested positive for either hepatitis C or HIV to medical care.
  • Completed more than 1,000 referrals to drug treatment.
  • Provided nearly 22,700 Narcan kits and overdose prevention trainings to residents and community partners resulting in over 9,450 self-reported overdose reversals.

 Resources

“Help is out there, and you can help save a life,” Dr. Howard said. “Today, I am encouraging everyone to learn the signs of overdose and to carry Narcan with them. It only takes minutes to learn how to use the overdose reversal drug, minutes of your time that could help you save a loved one's life.”

Narcan can also be requested by calling LMPHW at 502-574-8800. LMPHW’s Harm Reduction Program also distributes fentanyl test strips and Narcan at 11 different locations throughout Jefferson County. For more information on fentanyl and overdose prevention tips click here. For treatment, call 833-8KY-HELP (833-859-4357) to speak one-on-one with a specialist or visit www.findhelpnowky.org to get real-time information about available space in treatment programs. For more information on recovery supports available in the community, visit the Louisville Recovery Community Connection at 620 South 3rd Street. A list of other treatment and recovery resources can be found on the recovery resources brochure.

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