New heroin hotline for Northern Kentucky is up and running

Talk to a human, not a machine

As of July 1, help is a phone call away for a distraught parent, a distressed friend, or a frustrated spouse dealing with heroin addiction anywhere in Boone, Campbell or Kenton Counties.

And for people who call 859-577-2273 (CARE), there will be a real human voice on the line, not a message. The professionals picking up the phone will know whether to send police, an ambulance, or a specific form of treatment

The number is brand new, so it will take some familiarization, some time to become a first thought.

But, said Kenton Judge Executive Kris Knochelmann, “it is a good place to start. It will take the panic and uncertainty out of finding treatment.”

Northern Kentucky’s first-ever heroin line is being paid for by St. Elizabeth Hospital and the Boone, Campbell and Kenton fiscal courts under a contract administered by the Northern Kentucky Area Development District, Knochelmann said.

“We’ll be rolling it out and staff it up based on demand,” said Nan Franks, CEO of the Addiction Services Network of Cincinnati, which has operated a drug hotline for about 15 years.

A clinical triage staffer, along with two part-time drug professionals, will initially staff the line in office space of Brighton Center, 799 Ann St., in Newport.

“As we gather data and experience, we’ll adjust the staff,” Franks said.

“People who need help are valued human beings and deserve to be treated well, not just be given a list of numbers to call around,” Knochelmann said.

“The hotline is an important step forward,” said Paul Komarek, a heroin addiction treatment consultant. “It will take some of the uncertainty out of finding treatment. In Hamilton County, for over 15 years, the Addiction Services Council has responded quickly, assessed the situation and stayed in touch until the person has a solution.”

It is not unusual for a family with a child involved with heroin not to know where to call, or what to do. They don’t want to call police, because they know the heroin victim is a sick person, not a criminal. Emergency rooms are possible, but there are rules there, too.

The long-established 12-step groups, Alcoholics Anonymous (859-491-7181) and Narcotics Anonymous (513-820-2947) also can be islands in the drug storm.

Hamilton County’s hotline answers about 1,500 calls per month, Franks said.

How many calls the new help line will receive, sadly, likely will increase each month of its use, said Jim Thaxton, coordinator of the Heroin Impact Response Task Force of Northern Kentucky.

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