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McConnell, HHS secretary in Lexington to discuss UK opioid grant

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar visited UK, alongside Senate...
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar visited UK, alongside Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, officially launching the Healing Communities study. (WKYT)(WKYT)
Published: Oct. 7, 2019 at 7:37 PM EDT
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Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar visited UK, alongside Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, officially launching the Healing Communities study.

"This horrendous problem is just mind-bogglingly difficult to figure out how to get at," McConnell said. "I expect trying to figure out how to dispense these funds was a challenge."

UK is one of the only four sites chosen for this study.

"Kentucky is really one of the epicenters of the opioid crisis so there's tremendous expertise here," Azar said. "Honestly the communities here are further advanced in their thinking than a lot of other communities because they've had to deal with this so long."

The University of Kentucky establishing itself as a premier research institute also playing a role in bringing this initiative here. The goal is to bring all different areas from law enforcement, to mental health professionals, to employers together to tackle the opioid crisis working on prevention, treatment and recovery.

"What we believe is the case, is when a community really focuses its efforts, works together, they can make a material difference," Azar said.

The material difference they are hoping to see through this study is a big one-- it aims for a 40 percent decrease in overdose deaths across 16 Kentucky counties in three years.

"Kentucky has suffered a lot the last couple of decades from the opioid crisis, but we are making progress," Azar said.

The three other sites chosen for this study include Boston Medical Center, Columbia University and Ohio State University.