Eastern Kentucky gets $100,000 grant to support drug prevention, treatment efforts

OxyContin, in 80 mg pills, in a 2013 file image.
OxyContin, in 80 mg pills, in a 2013 file image. TNS

A partnership that’s working to fight drug addiction in eastern Kentucky has received a $100,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission, Republican Rep. Hal Rogers announced Thursday.

Operation UNITE, which operates in 32 counties in southern and eastern Kentucky, was founded in 2003 by Rogers to deal with what was at the time primarily an epidemic of addiction to prescription painkillers.

Kentucky’s Appalachian counties have since seen a surge in overdoses from heroin, as well as opioid painkillers. The competitive grant includes $50,000 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Kentucky recorded 1,248 overdose deaths in 2015, an increase over 2014’s 1,071 deaths. Heroin accounted for 28 percent of the 2015 fatalities, according to the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy.

The funding will support the organization’s education, law enforcement, prevention and treatment efforts.

Since 2012, the group has hosted an annual National Prescription Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit, drawing law enforcement, medical, academic, public health, industry and elected officials from across the country. The next summit will be held in April in Atlanta.

“Operation UNITE’s holistic approach to curb addiction and save lives is now a national model of success, and this funding will help expand the organization’s impact,” Rogers said in a statement.

Curtis Tate: 202-383-6018, @tatecurtis