City expands harm reduction efforts to prevent overdose deaths

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (August 31, 2022) – Mayor Greg Fischer announced today that the city will receive and value $31.8 million in opioid settlement funds to support the city’s efforts to help people with substance abuse disorders.

Five years ago this month, Louisville was one of the first cities to join what has become a national, multi-district lawsuit to hold drug companies and distributors accountable, “for dumping millions of opioids in our neighborhoods while refusing to monitor, identify, report and stop suspicious shipments of these drugs,” the mayor said.

This month, the settlement was approved following actions by the companies that led to addiction and death. In the settlement, Jefferson County will receive about $31.8 million over 18 years, with two payments totaling about $3.5 million expected to be paid by the end of this year.

“The money recovered from the companies is a sweet consolation, but it is damages paid for the damage caused,” the mayor said.

“This settlement comes too late for my son Matt and the countless other Kentucky families who have lost loved ones to substance abuse disorder,” Jefferson County District Attorney Mike O’Connell said, qualifying the opioid case one of his proudest accomplishments. “The resources that Jefferson County is funding with this settlement — treatment beds, wraparound services for those caught up in the justice system, prevention efforts, or whatever may happen — can serve as a tribute to the goodness we have lost but can never get. return. This settlement offers a chance to act and heal.

Over the next few months, the Metro Louisville Public Health and Wellness team will bring together several agencies of the Louisville Metropolitan Government to solicit public input to develop a plan to determine how best to use the funds to help the community dealing with opioid issues. This plan will then be presented to the Metro Council for comment and approval.

International Overdose Awareness Day

As part of International Overdose Awareness Day, the Mayor was joined by Dr. Jeff Howard, Acting Director at the Louisville Metro Public Health and Wellness Department (LMPHW); Jerry Collins, director of the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections (LMDC); Dr. Katie Marks, project director with the Kentucky Opioid Response Effort (KORE); and Jefferson County District Attorney Mike O’Connell to remember the lives lost to overdose and announce increased efforts to prevent overdose deaths.

Mayor Fischer led a moment of silence and announced that the Big Four Bridge, Metro Hall and Clock Tower will be lit purple, a symbol to raise awareness of overdose and to acknowledge the grief of family and loved ones. friends of people who have died of an overdose.

“Trauma, isolation and an increasingly toxic illicit drug supply associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have only aggravated the current overdose crisis,” the mayor said. “Inequalities in the distribution of resources, along with the failure of the war on drugs and the lingering stigma against people who use drugs, have kept our residents most at risk of fatal drug poisoning from dying. access to life-saving services and support. We’ve lost far too many Louisvillians to overdoses, and we’re asking the entire community to help us prevent more deaths.

According to the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy’s 2021 Overdose Death Report, there were 2,250 deaths in the state last year. This represents a 14.5% increase from 2020. The report shows that an opioid was involved in 90% of all overdose deaths in Kentucky in 2021 and that fentanyl was detected in 70% of those cases. In Jefferson County alone, the report shows there were 477 drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl in 2021 and 250 overdose deaths involving methamphetamine. So far in 2022, there have been more than 300 overdose deaths in Jefferson County and 250 of them have involved fentanyl, according to data from the coroner’s office.

“In recent years, overdose deaths involving fentanyl – a deadly synthetic opioid – have quadrupled. Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin, and a lot of people use it unknowingly because they don’t realize it’s in a product they’re using,” the mayor said. “Harm reduction strategies like readily available Narcan, fentanyl test strips and safety planning are now more vital than ever.”

LMDC: Expanded Harm Reduction Initiatives

The Louisville Metro Department of Corrections worked with public health and welfare to prevent overdose deaths among those incarcerated at the LMDC and those in the home incarceration program.

Narcan available in LMDC

Recently, as part of a pilot program, Narcan was placed in 15 dormitories at LMDC. If one person overdoses, another person can quickly access and administer the overdose reversal medication. In one of the dormitories, a Narcan wardrobe with an alarm system is installed. When the cabinet is accessed, the alarm sounds, alerting staff that someone needs immediate medical attention. The goal is to eventually install Narcan cabinets with alarms in all LMDC dormitories. Already, all correctional officers are trained in the use of Narcan.

Additionally, under the Reducing Overdose After Re-entry program, people leaving the LMDC after undergoing withdrawal receive free Narcan, and people entering the home incarceration program have access to reversal medication. overdose. To date, over 7,000 doses of Narcan have been provided to people discharged from the LMDC.

“In the past 12 months, Metro Corrections has lost four incarcerated people to overdoses. It is our duty to protect everyone, including those in prison facing criminal charges. We believe these new harm reduction efforts will save lives,” Collins said. “However, we are committed to doing even more to prevent those incarcerated from dying on our watch and that includes prosecuting anyone who brings this poison into our facilities.”

The MORE program now focuses on incarcerated people

With the generous support of the Kentucky Opioid Response Effort (KORE), the Medication Oriented Recovery and Enhancement (MORE) program changed from an outpatient clinic to focusing only on incarcerated people. Currently, the program offers methadone therapy and medication counseling services to those who are housed at the LMDC and have participated in a treatment program with another provider. The goal is to ensure that they continue to take their medications and services while they are housed at LMDC. Services are also provided to pregnant women with opioid use disorder at LMDC as well as Volunteers of America’s Freedom House, whether or not they have a treatment provider.

“Saving lives requires a deep and sustained commitment at the community level to a full continuum of accessible services and supports,” said KORE Project Director Dr. Marks. “The Cabinet for Health and Family Services and the Kentucky Opioid Response Effort are honored to fund the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness as they lead by example to embed harm reduction strategies and values ​​in this community. »

Financing a health kiosk

As a member of HEALing Community Studyfinanced by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), a free Narcan dispenser will be set up in the LMDC exit hall. It should be in place by the end of the year.

LMPHW: Harm Reduction Services

Launch of the Rapid Response Team

In July 2021, as part of a collaboration between EMS and LMPHW, a Quick Response Team (QRT) was formed in Jefferson County. The team is made up of compassionate public health professionals. Once EMS responds to an overdose call, the QRT is deployed to meet the person, provide Narcan, and connect them to social support and treatment services. All services provided by this program have been generously funded by the Kentucky Opioid Response Effort.

Since its launch, the QRT team has:

  • Connected with over 200 people who have overdosed and over 280 family members.
  • Provided nearly 50 referrals for treatment.
  • Distributed over 1,000 doses of Narcan.

Extension of local services

Louisville’s Harm Reduction Outreach Services are internationally recognized evidence-based practices that prevent overdose deaths and reduce the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C. LMPHW, in partnership with the Kingdom United – Target Four and the Kentucky Harm Reduction Coalition, expanded the program from a fixed mobile unit on Gray St. to 11 locations in Jefferson County.

Since its launch in 2015, the program has:

  • Assisted over 26,000 unique participants.
  • Connected 789 people who tested positive for hepatitis C or HIV to medical care.
  • Made over 1,000 referrals to addiction treatment.
  • Provided nearly 22,700 Narcan kits and overdose prevention training to residents and community partners, resulting in over 9,450 self-reported overdose reversals.


“Help is here, and you can help save a life,” Dr Howard said. “Today I encourage everyone to learn the signs of an overdose and take Narcan with them. It only takes minutes to learn how to use overdose reversal medication, minutes of your time that could help you save the life of a loved one.

Narcan can also be requested by calling LMPHW at 502-574-8800. LMPHW’s harm reduction program also distributes fentanyl and Narcan test strips at 11 different locations in Jefferson County. For more information on fentanyl and overdose prevention tips, click here. For treatment, call 833-8KY-HELP (833-859-4357) to speak one-on-one with a specialist or visit to get real-time information about available space in processing programs. For more information on recovery media available in the community, visit the Louisville Recovery Community Connection at 620 3rd Street South. A list of other treatment and recovery resources can be found in the recovery resource brochure.