Kentucky, Plagued by Prescription Drug Abuse, Lacks Good Treatment Options


In Kentucky, a state plagued by one of the worst prescription drug abuse problems in the nation, where nearly 1,000 people a year die of overdoses, a Louisville Courier-Journal investigation found that treatment options are woefully limited, especially for hard-core addicts in need of the most intense care. 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. 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. “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.

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