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Amid Opioid Epidemic, Louisville Releases 2-Year Plan To Address Substance Abuse

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The Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness on Friday released a two-year plan to tackle substance abuse. Louisville’s overdose death rate is more than double the national rate, and also exceeds Kentucky's rate, officials said.

Input from Louisville Metro departments and programs contributed to the plan, which addresses substance abuse through prevention, recovery and public policy changes.

Sarah Moyer, director of the Department of Public Health and Wellness, said the plan would use a public health approach to address substance abuse.

“And the plan covers more than just opioids, because we can’t just address one substance as the landscape is constantly changing,” Moyer said. “While these challenges of substance-use disorder may seem daunting, they can be met and overcome.”

Highlights of the plan:

  • Create three new syringe exchange sites, where people who use drugs can exchange used syringes for new ones to reduce the risk of spreading diseases like HIV or hepatitis C;
    Provide opioid antidote naloxone training to 20 percent more first responders and community organizations by July 2019;
    Attempt to get funding for a syringe exchange mobile unit and naloxone training in neighborhoods of the most need;
    Provide more peer support specialists in emergency rooms to try to connect patients with a possible substance abuse disorder with treatment;
    Develop ways of measuring if a treatment program is providing the best and most effective treatment for patients, and a plan for how the data will be shared by 2020;
    Develop a public health social media campaign to promote Louisville’s 24/7 Crisis & Suicide Prevention Hotline (800-221-0446) and the understanding of substance use disorders by July 2019;
    Expand substance abuse treatment provider Centerstone’s treatment program, ‘The Living Room,’ which provides a place for first responders to bring people who may need help with their substance addiction.

According to the city's report, opioids and other drugs hospitalized more than 2,000 people in 2016 and increased the city’s drug overdose death rate. In 2011, 134 people died of drug-related issues. That number increased to 312 drug-related deaths in 2016.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said the city has responded by training more medical crews, but it’s not enough.

“We’re making progress to fight the drug epidemic, but we know we have a lot more to do,” Fischer said. “This is a serious, long-term challenge. This battle may never be over, but implementing these recommendations will put us on the right path and help us start saving more lives.”

There are estimates for the top 10 goals of the plan, but Moyer did not say what those are.

This story has been updated.

Lisa Gillespie is WFPL's Health and Innovation Reporter.