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City Is Making Strides In Addressing Drug Abuse, Officials Say

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Officials say Louisville is on track to meet established goals to address substance abuse in the city. The Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness in March released a plan to address drug abuse in Louisville. Input from Louisville Metro departments and programs contributed to the plan, which addresses substance abuse through prevention, recovery and public policy changes.

One priority of the initiative is to address substance abuse among young people. When kids face adversity at a young age, their health and quality of life can be affected later in life, officials say.

“Adverse childhood experiences have been shown to be associated with an increased risk for depression and suicide, smoking, illicit drug use (including intravenous drug injection) and alcoholism in adulthood,” the city's plan reads.

Sam Rose, a community health coordinator with Louisville Metro Public Health and Wellness, said one goal is to work with partner agencies — like Jefferson County Public Schools and after school providers like the YMCA — “to help them understand how trauma impacts children and how to better respond when they have been affected by trauma.”

Bus drivers, teachers, food service workers and other child care providers are receiving training in an attempt to address the effects of trauma.

Rose said the city and area partners are on track to develop an action plan to help prevent and reduce substance abuse by kids.

“We’ve pooled community partners from JCPS, from the block system, which is out-of-school time, and we’re trying to figure out how to best support areas that need prevention efforts,” Rose said.

Rose also said the city is working on establishing regulations for sober living houses, which are often places where people in recovery live after treatment.

“We just know that there are situations where a person in recovery can be taken advantage of, and we know are being taken advantage of in some cases,” Rose said. “We want to establish a way that that can be stopped.”

Rose said there are situations where a sober home requires residents to hand over money earned from working or given from various social services.

“[Home owners] take the check for housing and then [residents] don’t have a good way to leave,” Rose said. “Or, instances where someone gets kicked out and puts their stuff on the street and there is no recourse for that.”

The city and its partners hope to create a proposal to reduce youth substance abuse by the fall, with plans to apply for funding for implementation by 2020.

Drug overdose rates have grown exponentially in Kentucky in past years. The overdose death rate in Louisville is double that of the national rate. Hospitalizations for acute heroin poisoning in the Louisville Metro area in 2016 were 5 times higher than in 2012, according to the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center.

Lisa Gillespie is WFPL's Health and Innovation Reporter.