LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A newspaper investigation has found that in a state plagued with one of the worst prescription drug abuse problems in the nation, treatment options are woefully limited.
The Courier-Journal (http://cjky.it/U4ejSn ) reports the problem is even worse for hard-core addicts in need of the most intense care. The newspaper published a series of stories on the problem last week as part of a years-long look at the state's prescription drug abuse epidemic.
The newspaper found:
. Only 40 of Kentucky's 301 treatment and recovery sites offer 24-hour residential care, which experts say may be the only hope for the most severely addicted. And those 40 centers are concentrated in just 19 of the state's 120 counties, mostly in urban areas, meaning addicts in rural counties often must travel hours for help.
. Nearly 80 percent of Kentucky sites listed by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration — 235 — are for outpatients only, typically offering one hour of care a week. The other 26 include a mix of non-residential types, or another type, such as hospital detoxification.
. Kentuckians tend to get less intensive treatment than Americans overall. Two-thirds of the 21,474 Kentuckians admitted for treatment of any drug addiction in 2009 entered once-weekly outpatient care, compared with 46 percent nationally. Less than 5 percent entered residential care, compared with 17 percent nationally.
. Treatment shortages are most severe in Appalachian counties with the state's highest overdose rates. Six Kentucky counties that rank among the 10 highest for overdose deaths have just one outpatient center or no center at all.
. The state's overwhelming need for treatment means that addicts face waiting lists even in the two counties with the most centers — Jefferson with 32 and Fayette with 25.
"We absolutely do not have the treatment we need, not even close," Attorney General Jack Conway said, adding that experts say Kentucky has less than a third of the treatment beds it needs. "We need more beds."
Kentucky's behavioral health department budget for substance abuse has remained virtually unchanged for a decade, providing $29 million for contracted treatment centers in 2012.
Kerri Richardson, spokeswoman for Gov. Steve Beshear, said there was a conscious effort to maintain the funding "even as other state agencies saw deep, painful cuts of up to 40 percent over the past five years."
One state agency where treatment funding has increased is the Department of Corrections, which saw its substance abuse budget rise more than 600 percent since 2007, to about $7 million.
Kentucky has taken a step to ease its treatment shortage by opening 10 Recovery Kentucky centers since 2007, tapping funding sources such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the state Department of Corrections.
Those residential centers, where recovering addicts help their peers, are part of a state initiative modeled after The Healing Place in Louisville and The Hope Center in Lexington that seek to reduce chronic homelessness by helping people recover from substance abuse. Four more are planned.
State officials also recently announced that they received $3.6 million in federal grants for bolstering treatment, the majority going to providers in Whitley and Campbell counties to help at-risk adolescents with mental health and drug-abuse problems.
"Despite a historic recession, Kentucky has expanded its support of substance abuse treatment programs over the past few years as part of the administration's overall effort to combat drug abuse," Richardson said.
But officials and experts agree Kentucky still falls far short of offering enough treatment. Beshear said the number of people seeking help for painkiller addiction has risen 900 percent in a decade, and many treatment professionals expect the state's new prescription drug law will lead even more to seek help.
"If you take away all of the pill mills, those people don't magically stop using and get better," said Michele Flowers McCarthy, community and government liaison for SelfRefind, which has 11 clinics in Kentucky offering medication-assisted treatment.
Information from: The Courier-Journal, http://www.courier-journal.com