Northern Kentucky state representative welcomes new tools being made available to fight opioid epidemic

08/29/2017 02:13 PM

BURLINGTON — As Northern Kentucky continues to be the epicenter of the heroin epidemic in the state of Kentucky, there are tools that are being made available, many for the first time, to fight opiate addiction in the region.

Last week, Aetna and area officials announced that 720 doses of Narcan would be made available to emergency personnel to help prevent opioid-overdose-related deaths.

Another factor that is helping to fight the epidemic is that more and more people are becoming aware of what is necessary to effectively combat opiate addiction.

State Rep. Kim Moser, R-Taylor Mill, who also serves as the Northern Kentucky Director for the Office of Drug Control Policy, points to several things in the region which have been added to help fight the region’s drug problem and better help those who are addicted.

“We have a community help line now which historically allows folks who didn’t know where to go for help to be able to call that number 24 hours a day, and it’s answered by a licensed clinical counselor to be able to have their questions answered, to be able to do some crisis intervention when it’s needed, to get a referral to treatment,” Moser said. “We’re expanding treatment.”

Another change is being better educated on how to effectively treat addicts, which differs from addiction treatment in other areas.

“We have historically treated opiate use disorders like every other addiction, and we know now through science that opiate use disorders are different,” Moser said.

One problem that has led to opiate addiction is the overprescribing of opiates by physicians to treat acute pain related to surgery or dental work.

Individuals start out getting legitimate prescriptions but become addicted over time.

During the 2017 session, the General Assembly passed House Bill 333, sponsored by Moser, which limits prescriptions for addictive opioid pain killers like oxycodone, fentanyl and morphine to a three-day supply, with exceptions for the terminally ill and some others.

“In the early 90s, opioids and some of the hydrocodones, oxycodones were brand new. They were being heavily marketed to physicians as non-addictive if they were used to treat pain,” Moser said. “We now know that that is just not true, and if an individual takes an opioid for up to five days or longer, it really increases exponentially their propensity to develop an addiction.”

While Moser says HB 333 was a valuable piece of legislation passed by the General Assembly, she believes that there is still a lot of work to be done as she is busy crafting legislation for the upcoming 2018 session.

“We are resuscitating folks without an avenue to treatment, and we really need to think about that,” Moser said. “So what we are working on are some pre-arrest diversion techniques and that would be things like expanding our angel initiative, where an individual can go to a police department and talk to a social worker who has been hired specifically to help someone get into treatment.”

In the first seven months of 2017, St. Elizabeth Hospital’s emergency rooms have treated 1,300 overdose victims. All were treated with Narcan.


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