Rural and Urban Kentucky Feeling the Effects of COVID and the Opioid Crisis At The Same Time
COVID – 19 has put a significant strain on Kentuckians, and some rural, lower income areas are feeling the effects even more so. This pandemic has shed an unexpected yet predictable light on the ever-present problems in these areas, including the lack of access to basic necessities such as mental health care and addiction treatment. When someone who was already struggling financially, is met with layoffs, or losing their housing or other significant resources due to the pandemic, it’s no surprise that a person’s already potentially rocky mental health could be challenged. Throw in that mix having to continually socially isolate yourself and helping your children balance remote learning or scrambling to find alternative childcare. It feels like the perfect storm and it is safe to say there is likely no one in Kentucky who has not been affected by this pandemic in one way or another.
The state of Kentucky appears to fall near the lower half of the ranking of COVID-19 cases per state, but that does not mean they have not been impacted severely. For example, fatal overdoses in Lexington have increased at least 42 percent compared to this time last year. The Lexington Herald Leader says that health and law enforcement officials across more than ten Kentucky counties have reported similar trajectories in their communities – an increase of overdoses, which remained steady over the past two months then periodically surging. According to the American Medical Association, more than 35 states have reported increases in opioid-related mortality since the pandemic started.
Unemployment rates in Kentucky skyrocketed during the months of March, April, and May due to the pandemic. After businesses started to reopen in early June and July, the rates have lowered, but are still higher than ever before throughout the state. With so many people in Lexington, Louisville, Erlanger, Paris, Nicholasville, and all other parts of Kentucky losing their jobs, this has had a tremendous effect on people’s overall mental and emotional wellbeing. Losing the stability of employment can lead to depression, loss of energy and the will to keep going – all dangerous factors that can easily cast someone into the throes of addiction. Often, someone who was/is teetering on the “edge of addiction” – in other words someone who is one missed paycheck, one eviction notice, or one unforeseen bill away from basically being bankrupt - cannot afford any more setbacks. Getting into treatment at a time like this might seem unthinkable, as isolation and despair can very easily lead someone down a path of addiction, however; connection, empathy, and hope can pull them out.
Physical connection and social interaction are critical in times like these; times when these two concepts are basically the hallmarks of what “isn’t allowed because of COVID-19.” Before the pandemic had shut everything down, BrightView was already in the action stages of developing strategies and plans to keep our treatment centers moving forward in the safest and healthiest of ways. BrightView is still doing this; masks are mandatory for all patients and staff and patients and staff are always 6 feet apart from each other unless for medical purposes.
BrightView opened its doors in Lexington and Paris in July of 2020, to help those who are seeking addiction treatment and might need some extra support during these times. We are opening two more centers in Nicholasville and Erlanger in winter of 2020 to continue to assist with the growing demand of treatment in the state of Kentucky. As recent as 2017, Jessamine County (Nicholasville) ranked among the top five counties in the highest number of overdoses per capita according to the 2017 Overdose Fatality Report released by the Commonwealth of Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet. Even more recently, Jefferson County (Louisville) and Fayette County (Lexington) are the leading counties in Kentucky for heroin related overdose deaths as of 2018. These counties are followed closely by Kenton County.
BrightView’s Chief Medical Officer, and one of its founders, was born and raised in Lexington, Kentucky. Dr. Shawn Ryan, says that the move to Kentucky, "is a significant part of my vision for our company and means the world to me to be able to bring world class treatment to my home state".
BrightView offers medication assisted treatment including Suboxone, which is a medication, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, that provide a whole-patient approach to the treatment of opioid dependency. When taken as prescribed, Suboxone (buprenorphine) is safe and effective. At BrightView, we only offer outpatient medication-assisted treatment so you can get the help you need without uprooting your entire life or livelihood. Almost anyone can begin treatment and start feeling better as soon as tomorrow. Most facilities can see you within 24 hours of calling to schedule an appointment. We know breaking an addiction can be hard, but it can be done. And we are here to help you do it.