COVINGTON, Ky. -- Kenton County Detention Center officials hope a $300,000 grant will help prevent overdoses and enhance access to treatment in Northern Kentucky.
The jail’s Kentucky Overdose Prevention, Education, and Pre-arrest Diversion Project will use the three-year, Department Of Justice grant to study the impact of overdose prevention and pre-arrest diversion programs in the community. The grant will also allow officials to create new programs and support the ones they already have, like quick response teams to respond in the aftermath of an overdose.
Officials expect the project to reduce overdoses throughout Northern Kentucky, streamline access to treatment and bridge jurisdictions for a cohesive approach to combating addiction. Jason Merrick with Kenton County Jail Addiction Services said they want to reduce the number of people who are dying as a direct result of opioid overdoses.
"There's been this gap between when an overdose occurs and when someone can get into treatment, so we are hoping to bridge that gap by providing these quick response teams to literally meet people where they are at," Merrick said.
Supporters like Kevin Richardson from the Addiction Services Council said engagement is key.
"It's letting the person know that, 'Hey, someone does actually care, that happens to be in law enforcement, that happens to be a paramedic, and happens to be a therapist who wants to engage you right now,'" he said.
Officials also expect the program will reduce the number of overdose response runs for local EMS crews. That would be a relief, according to Independence Fire Chief Scott Breeze. He said they had roughly 100 cases in the past year.
Officials said about 85 percent of inmates at the Kenton County Detention Center are there directly or indirectly due to drugs. But the jail has been praised for its efforts to provide treatment to inmates with substance use disorders. Sam Quinones, the best-selling author of “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic,” told WCPO the jail could serve as a model for treating opioid addiction.
Kenton County’s Unit 104 is a full-time “therapeutic community” aimed at rehabilitation within the walls of the jail. The unit offers inmates G.E.D. classes, 12-step meetings, training on how to reverse an overdose, meditation and more.
“Amid this national epidemic of opiate addiction, rethinking jail, as Kentucky has, as a place of sanctuary and recovery for a population that has lost hope, might not just be advisable; it may be indispensable,” Quinones wrote in a 2017 op-ed.
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