Updated November 23, 2021 at 8:23 PM ET

A federal jury on Tuesday found three of the nation's biggest pharmacy chains, CVS, Walgreens and Walmart, liable for helping to fuel the U.S. opioid crisis — a decision that's expected to have legal repercussions as thousands of similar lawsuits move forward in courts across the country.

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A new program is aiming to help Kentuckians with substance abuse issues land—and keep—jobs.

The effort is called the called the Kentucky Transformational Employment Program, or KTEP, and includes several state business, government, and health care groups.

Normally, if an employee tests positive for drugs, they’d be immediately fired. Businesses participating in KTEP will work to get employees struggling with addiction issues into a treatment program, with the goal of having that employee eventually return to the workplace.

LaKisha Miller is the Executive Director of the Kentucky Chamber Foundation, one of the groups that’s part of the effort.

“Through KTEP, what employers are now able to do is they’re able to say, ‘hey, let’s go ahead and pause the employment process at this point’”, Miller said. “We’re now able to say, “we’re going to connect you to treatment, I want to be able to get you some help, and then let’s facilitate the process of getting you back safely to work.’”

Erica Peterson

A Southern Indiana county is on pace to have one of its worst years ever for opioid overdoses.

Last week, the Clark County Health Department received two notifications from the Electronic Surveillance System for the Early Notification of Community-based Epidemics, or ESSENCE. Health officer Dr. Eric Yazel said the system sends the notifications when a high number of overdoses are treated at local hospitals.

Between Aug. 22 and Aug. 26, 21 people came to Clark Memorial’s emergency department because of an overdose. Another notification was sent after 12 overdoses were treated in a little more than a day, from Aug. 25 to the early morning of Aug. 27.

Kate Howard

Kentucky will get more than $460 million as part of a multistate settlement with Johnson & Johnson and other opioid manufacturers and distributors.

The settlement is the result of several lawsuits Kentucky has filed against pharmaceutical companies. Proceeds will be put toward addiction treatment and prevention and will be distributed to the state over the coming years.

Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced the windfall on Wednesday, saying the companies created and fueled the opioid epidemic.

“There is hardly a family anywhere that has been immune to the scourge of opioids,” Cameron said during a news conference. “We’ve lost thousands of our fellow Kentuckians and seen families and children torn apart by the grips of addiction.”

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The Muhlenberg County Health Department is providing free Naloxone kits and training for those wanting to learn how to help people who have overdosed on opioids.

Carolyn Bullock works at the health department, and says the nasal kits are designed to be an easy and quick way for family, friends, and first responders to provide life-saving help to someone who overdosed.

“It attaches to the same part of the brain as the opioid, so it blocks their effect for about 30 to 90 minutes, and gives you time to get them emergency help, and it reverses the symptoms that would otherwise lead to death.”

Those wanting to learn how to administer Naloxone can attend one of two virtual information sessions being offered by the health department on Thursday.

Bullock says those wanting the training and naloxone kits can attend the virtual sessions without giving their name. Those who complete one of the training sessions will have a free naloxone kit mailed to them.

For months, members of the Sackler family that owns Purdue Pharma, the maker of Oxycontin, have portrayed their bid for immunity from future opioid lawsuits as a kind of fait accompli, a take-it-or-leave-it fix to a legal morass.

Imagine you're part of a project that goes horribly wrong at work, causing a scandal, costing your company a ton of money, maybe even putting people at risk. Now imagine after that kind of performance your company rewards you with a raise and a bonus.

Critics say that's happening right now with CEOs at big drug and health care companies tangled up in the opioid crisis.

"When leadership fails ... the board of directors have to be willing to hold their executives accountable," said Shawn Wooden, Connecticut's state treasurer.

Abbygail Broughton

The Madison County health department in Kentucky has kept its harm reduction program open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to continue its work against the other epidemic afflicting the region: the addiction crisis. Through the program, people can exchange needles, receive referrals for addiction treatment services, and get training to use the overdose-reversal drug Narcan. 

Laura Nagle, a risk reduction specialist at the department, said they use a van to provide training and doses of Narcan in area communities such as Richmond. 

“The mobile unit is a part of Madison County’s harm reduction team, but [the University of Kentucky] provides the Narcan. So we actually couldn’t do this outreach if it weren’t for the HEALling Communities project,” Nagle said. 


White House Office of National Drug Control

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released drug overdose death data last December, it warned about the impacts the ongoing pandemic has had on the addiction crisis.

“The disruption to daily life due to the COVID-19 pandemic has hit those with substance use disorder hard,” CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said in a statement. “As we continue the fight to end this pandemic, it’s important to not lose sight of different groups being affected in other ways. We need to take care of people suffering from unintended consequences.”

Only four states in the U.S. saw a decline in overdose deaths. Deaths increased in the remaining states. The rate of overdose deaths in Kentucky increased by 27% and in West Virginia by 31.7% — both were higher than the national increase of 21%. 

Alexandra Kanik

Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia will collectively receive roughly $45 million as part of settlement agreements announced Thursday resolving lawsuits against consulting giant McKinsey & Company related to the opioid epidemic.

States had sued McKinsey because the company had advised opioid medication makers and distributors for several years during the height of the opioid crisis. The settlement details how McKinsey advised companies on how to maximize profits, including specific messages intended to get physicians to prescribe more doses of drugs such as OxyContin.

The company admitted no wrongdoing but agreed to a $537 million dollar settlement with 47 states, and a separate settlement with West Virginia.

Addiction In The Pandemic: An Interview With A Member Of Narcotics Anonymous

Feb 3, 2021
NorthStar Online

Terrance D. is the father of two daughters and lives in Lexington. He’s a carpenter and owns a small construction company.

More than 15 years ago, Terrance walked into his first Narcotics Anonymous meeting at age 27. 

He spoke to the Ohio Valley ReSource about addiction, sobriety and how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected him. He uses a pseudonym when speaking publicly about his involvement with Narcotic Anonymous.

Terrance first joined NA because he feared he would die from his addiction. 

“I started using socially as a kid in my early teens, and by the time it got into my 20s, it got worse and worse,” Terrance said. “And I had tried drugs that I never set out to try and did things that I never said I would do.”


NorthStar Online

Terrance D. has been sober for more than 15 years and Narcotics Anonymous has been a big part of his recovery. He uses a pseudonym when speaking publicly about addiction and his work with NA. 

Terrance said the bonds the group has formed are very important, and they were forged through regular social gatherings. 

“We recover in meetings together, we’ve raised our families together, our kids know one another,” he said. “We generally go to eat after meetings, or coffee or other things. We socialize together.”

But last March as the coronavirus pandemic forced businesses and public places to close, the regular face-to-face contact that Terrance and his group depended on was gone.

“All that’s changed, and it was an abrupt change,” he said.


The Trump administration introduced new addiction treatment guidelines Thursday that give physicians more flexibility to prescribe a drug to patients struggling with opioid addiction.

Substance Abuse Gainesville

Some drug and alcohol treatment centers in Kentucky are reporting an increase in demand for services since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early March. Megan Escamilla, the Clinical Director of Addiction Services at Lifeskills in Bowling Green, said the pandemic may have disrupted recovery routines for clients, but resources are still available.

"There are many resources available, and regardless if it's their first time in treatment or their tenth time in treatment.  The big thing to focus on is that they're in treatment and this may be the time to get those additional supports they need in order to maintain their recovery."                                                                

The Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy recently reported a five-percent increase in drug overdose deaths in the state for 2019. Executive Director Van Ingram said COVID-19 is already impacting the numbers for 2020.

Despite widespread devastation caused by America's opioid epidemic, an investigation by NPR found that doctors and other health care providers still prescribe highly addictive pain medications at rates widely considered unsafe.

Public data, including new government studies and reports in medical literature, shows enough prescriptions are being written each year for half of all Americans to have one.

Patients still receive more than twice the volume of opioids considered normal before the prescribing boom began in the late 1990s.