No family is immune from addiction. It is a pervasive, widespread disease that harms families and takes countless lives each year. No matter where you find yourself in Kentucky, drug addiction and substance abuse run rampant through our local communities. Addiction touches us all in one form or another.
This disease is exacerbated by the isolation brought on by COVID-19 shutdowns. With the sharp increase in overdose deaths and the use of illegal substances on the rise, there has never been a more pressing time to address how Kentucky communities help and support people trying to overcome addiction. The need for a comprehensive and all-inclusive approach to addiction recovery is apparent, and this past session, the legislature passed HB 7 to accomplish this very goal.
The goal of HB 7 is to ensure communities have the tools in place to help people successfully recover from addiction. Specifically, the legislation creates an advisory council tasked with creating a Recovery Ready Certification. In turn, this certification will help a community evaluate its recovery programs and standards and identify areas of strength and improvement. Ultimately, this certification is meant to encourage local communities to take inventory of the resources they currently offer and make adjustments to fit their individual needs.
By putting this council in place, state and local governments can better facilitate a strategic dialogue in the development of programs. Representatives from our cities and counties will participate in the Advisory Council, as will representatives from the Department for Public Health and the Department of Workforce Investment. Faith-based community organizations and individuals currently in recovery will also have a seat on this council.
The addiction crisis is pervasive and impacts everything from our schools and the criminal justice system to workforce participation in our local economies. This is why representatives from these important groups were selected to lend their knowledge and capabilities to this effort. Input from people with a range of experiences and expertise will help drive the council toward meaningful conversations and productive results.
This council and certification program will create an environment where businesses and local entities can collaborate and ensure the availability of high-quality recovery programs for substance-involved individuals. We need to take a comprehensive approach so that every community has prevention and treatment options that make a meaningful difference. By creating a centralized program for cities and counties, people all across this state can have access to equitable recovery options.
Kentuckians work together. The Kentucky spirit is embodied when friends and neighbors look after and help one another through the tough times. Our recovery programs can be a shining example of our state’s values if everyone impacted by addiction has a seat at the table and collaborates on solutions. Organizations must work together to help people who want to help themselves out of the throes of addiction. As we continue to destigmatize this disease, we hope this legislation will be a step in the right direction in winning the battle against addiction.
The time to shift the focus away from penalizing and punishing addiction is now. We must thoughtfully move past that mindset and instead work to strengthen community resources that offer someone a hand up as our friends, neighbors, and family members strive to overcome this disease.
Representative Adam Bowling is the primary sponsor of HB 7. He represents the state’s 87th House District, which is comprised of Bell County and a portion of Harlan County.