“Hope blooms when the time is ready.” – Debasish Mridha

After seeing waves of the opioid epidemic pass through Kentucky since the late 1990s, Kentucky is ready and well-equipped  to turn the tide. Due to actions taken by all three branches of Kentucky’s government, and major efforts by the Attorney General’s office specifically, we are set to see hundreds of millions of dollars come directly to Kentucky from the opioid settlement. With investments and persistence, we can ensure there is not another generation of Kentuckians negatively impacted by the opioid epidemic. 

As a reminder, 50% of opioid settlement funds will go to the Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission and the other half to counties, cities, consolidated local governments, and urban county governments. The first payments of the Opioid Settlement funds began distribution on the local level starting December of 2022. The Commission, overseeing the other half of the $842 million dollars, awarded their first allocation to a pilot around treatment at the end of January of 2023.

The funds will come in over the next 18 years, and what we know is that significant change takes time and planning – check out this flowchart of how funds will be distributed in Kentucky

Kentucky’s opioid crisis has and continues to have ripple effects on the kids and families in our communities. Only three states (West Virginia, New Hampshire, and Vermont) have higher rates of children impacted by the opioid epidemic. We know that substance use and untreated mental health issues in the home, as well as parental incarceration, loss of a parent, and family violence often surround substance misuse in the home. We also know that those adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can have major impacts on the short and long term health outcomes of kids in our community, especially if left untreated. 

ACEs and the opioid epidemic are interconnected in ways that we may not know the magnitude of yet. 

Research demonstrates a clear link between childhood trauma and problematic or disordered opioid use. Because ACEs are common and strongly related to a variety of substance misuse and behavioral health outcomes, preventing ACEs and engaging in early identification of people who have experienced them could have a significant impact on a range of critical health problems, especially addiction. 

Childhood trauma in Kentucky is unfortunately common. One in 5 Kentucky children have already experienced at least two ACEs. With every additional adverse childhood experience the odds of early initiation of illicit drug-use, including opioid misuse, and the likelihood of engaging in injection drug use and non-fatal overdose increases on a consistent incline. That’s the bad news. 

The good news: childhood trauma is (mostly) preventable and definitely treatable, specifically through primary prevention efforts. The prevention of substance misuse and related outcomes can be tackled by addressing risk and protective factors in childhood and adolescence, which include strengthening families, building youth resilience, and addressing adverse community environments. And, on the other hand, increasing positive childhood experiences wherever possible.  

So how do we address big, overwhelming issues like childhood trauma and preventing substance misuse? We do it together. 

We connect with those who are making decisions around funding, we connect with those organizations and agencies working directly to provide substance use treatment, safe housing, reintegration into communities, and those working further upstream to prevent addiction in the first place. Johns Hopkins developed 5 Principles to help frame the thinking around how to spend opioid dollars more effectively. 

Kentucky Youth Advocates and Bloom Kentucky have also developed the Kentucky Opioid Settlement Planning Toolkit for communities to get local partners around the same table to start to build hopefulness and readiness for change.

Every community across the Commonwealth can invest in a future Kentucky where substance misuse is no longer plaguing our parents, caregivers, and kids.