The overdose crisis has battered many states and taken its toll on many people.
The 2021 Drug Overdose Report indicated that 2,250 Kentuckians died from drug overdoses in 2021, a 14.5% increase compared with the year prior. Now the state is trying to do something about it by providing support for those with substance use disorder.
During the 2022 legislative session, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear worked with a bipartisan group of state leaders to act on recommendations made by The Pew Charitable Trusts on how to best address the opioid crisis.
Last year, Gov. Beshear acted on one of those recommendations when he signed House Bill 7, which created the Advisory Council for Recovery Ready Communities within the state Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP).
In broad terms, the innovative program is intended to create a network of support services at no cost to residents currently seeking treatment for alcohol and other drug addictions.
“There are a lot of pieces that we’re trying to put in place,” said Steve Shannon, who sits on the Advisory Council for Recovery Ready Communities and serves as executive director of the Kentucky Association of Regional Programs, which represents mental health and substance use treatment providers throughout the Bluegrass State. “We’re very encouraged.”
Recovery-ready communities leverage a combination of access to treatment, employment opportunities, education opportunities and safe housing for those in recovery. Resources to help communities include the recently published Recovery Ready Communities blueprint.
Passage in Kentucky of House Bill 7 to create the Advisory Council for Recovery Ready Communities was not just supported by the governor. The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce also supported the legislation. In the midst of a national labor shortage, the Kentucky business community saw the creation of Recovery Ready Communities as an opportunity to give Kentuckians in recovery a second chance.
By providing job training and employment opportunities to people in recovery, hard-hit employers benefit from a new, deeper pool of labor.
It’s not all business, though.
It’s also an acknowledgement that we must view addiction and people who use drugs differently, and the willingness among people and organizations throughout Kentucky to join the recovery-ready effort is an indication that things have changed, Shannon said.
“I think as a state we figured out that we have to treat addictions differently,” he said. “We understand how to get people sober. Now we have to take the next step and help them get their lives back.”
As we observe National Recovery Month throughout September, it’s important to remember that no one achieves recovery alone. To assume anyone can make that journey alone is to ignore the potential hazards along the difficult road to recovery.
Recovery-ready communities are intended to ease that journey.
“We’re all committed to this. We want to do this,” said Shannon, the National Council’s association executive in Kentucky.
Let us know whether your state has a Recovery Ready Communities program in place. Is it working? And what lessons learned can you pass along to people in states that haven’t gone down this path yet?
(he/him/his) President and CEO
National Council for Mental Wellbeing