By TOM LATEK, Kentucky Today

FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – A large crowd gathered in the State Capitol Rotunda on Thursday afternoon (September 28, 2017) to hear a message of hope from former drug addicts as part of National Recovery Month.

Billed as the “Recovery Rally in the Rotunda,” it highlighted those who have battled with addiction, as well messages from state officials.

Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Vickie Yates Brown Glisson said numerous state agencies are banding together to fight the opioid crisis.

“Kentucky is on the national forefront of addressing this issue,” she said. “We hear often from Washington and from others, because we are on the forefront with what we’re doing.

“Our approach is comprehensive and multi-faceted. We are implementing both preventive harm-reduction strategies to prevent opiate misuse and we’re also building and expanding the availability of treatment and recovery support, so we can respond to this problem.”

She said those strategies are at the heart of a new initiative called KORE, the Kentucky Opiate Response Effort, being developed from a federal grant.

“Working together is the only way that we will overcome this epidemic, and have stronger families and communities, the theme of this year’s Recovery Month.”

They also heard from six people who spoke about their years of addiction, and the different paths they took to recovery. For some it was a counselor at a treatment center who was also a former addict that showed them the way, for others it was their faith that saved them.

Justice Secretary John Tilley told the gathering the criminal justice system is changing the way they do business on the issue. “Understanding how we can help those addicted to stop coming in and out of jails and prisons,” he said.

Tilley rattled off some startling statistics on the issue.

“Fifty-nine thousand people died last year from overdoses across the country, 1,414 here in Kentucky. Thirteen thousand visits to emergency rooms. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates we spent $251 billion last year. The impact of the drug problem has caused us to spend that kind of money to combat it.

“It’s time we stopped worrying about why people become addicted and treat that disease. Sadly, only about one-tenth of the people in this country get that treatment.”

Tilley had this message for those in recovery.

“When you leave your recovery program, find somebody to help. Even if you’re not certified, it’ll help, one addict at a time.”

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