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Gov. Beshear reveals state's $10M anti-heroin plan; activists say too much for prison programs

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LEXINGTON, Kentucky — Gov. Steve Beshear has announced how Kentucky will spend $10 million on tackling the state's heroin epidemic, but some activists say not enough of it is going toward what the state needs most: more treatment beds for drug abusers who are not behind bars.

The targets for the next fiscal year's anti-heroin funds were announced on Monday, multiple media outlets report.

Starting July 1, the money will be divided in eight primary ways, including $2.6 million going to community centers for substance abuse treatment, $1 million to care for babies born addicted to opiates and $1.5 million aimed at treatment programs for county and state inmates.

The Department of Corrections also will receive an additional $1.5 million for Vivitrol, an injectable, extended-release drug designed to prevent an opiate relapse. It will be used as offenders are released from custody.

Democratic state Rep. Sannie Overly of Paris offered the amendment that provided the funding. Overly said the money will make a big difference toward addressing the problem.

However, the announcement left some Northern Kentucky activists feeling ignored.

Noel Stegner, co-founder of the advocacy group NKY Hates Heroin, said his grandson died of an overdose after being turned away from treatment centers because no beds were available.

"They talked in big numbers but not about how many more treatment beds, which is what we need right now," Stegner told The Kentucky Enquirer (http://cin.ci/1Gosrwo). "This kind of bureaucratic delay and lack of services is what killed our grandson."

Another critic is Morningview advocate Charlotte Wethington, who helped pass "Casey's Law," which now allows parents to commit their children to drug treatment.

"From the looks of it, most of the money is going through corrections," Wethington said. "(The funding) means you'll have to go to jail to get treatment."

Any local agency or health center wanting more treatment dollars must go through a grant application process that will open up later this month, Justice Cabinet Secretary J. Michael Brown said. Those programs that show a need and get results will get more funding, Brown said.

The funding allocation is expected to increase to $22 million annually, starting in July 2016.

Heroin use in Kentucky has skyrocketed recently, with overdoses increasing 207 percent between 2011 and 2012, according to state data.

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