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Recent $1 million grant to further Baptist Health’s efforts to curb substance, opioid abuse in Kentucky


A $1 million grant to combat opioid and substance abuse in two Southcentral Kentucky counties will support Baptist Health’s latest effort to expand and deepen its behavioral health services across the state and Southern Indiana.

Baptist Health Corbin secured the grant to serve 1,000 families a year for the next three years in its home county of Whitley and neighboring Knox County. The grant, which launched Sept. 1, funds a collaborative effort that includes long-time behavioral health partner Cumberland River Behavioral Health. Primary beneficiaries of the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) grant will be pregnant women, those seeking Emergency Department treatment for substance abuse-related conditions and youth.

“Baptist Health has long had a focus on behavioral health and planned to intensify those efforts even before the COVID-19 pandemic compounded other major life stressors that make the vulnerable even more at risk of turning to drug use to overcome anxiety,” said CEO Gerard Colman. “Baptist Health Corbin has been a rural health leader in this area, and an advocate on behalf of its people. Other Baptist Health hospitals are also engaged in curbing opioid and substance abuse in their communities.”

Baptist Health in engaged in the Kentucky Statewide Opioid Stewardship Program, along with the Kentucky Hospital Association and the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Programs in process across the Baptist Health system include pain management alternatives to curb opioid use and programs to ensure proper disposal of unused prescription drugs. Each hospital’s retail pharmacy offers a secure drug disposal container. In addition, Baptist Health created a leadership position at the system level grow and direct behavioral health efforts.

Chris Holcomb, former executive director of Behavioral Health at Baptist Health Corbin and rural health advocate, was named an assistant vice president of Behavioral Health for the nine-hospital system.

“With the pandemic, more people than ever are susceptible to overdose deaths and suicide,” Holcomb said. “Substance abuse, particularly opioid abuse, has skyrocketed in the communities we serve. Overdoses that involve opioids have more than tripled in the last 20 years. The overdose rate by county in this area is nearly three times higher than the national average. We want to use our resources to support patients with education, prevention and treatment.”

One valuable tool for reaching those who need help, is telehealth – primarily videoconferencing sessions between a healthcare or mental health professional and a patient. Baptist Health has expanded its telehealth program for greater convenience, especially for patients with transportation issues or other barriers to seeking treatment.

Baptist Health Corbin was an early telehealth pioneer, starting in 2016, as transportation and the geography of the region are considered barriers to accessing care. The service area is mountainous and navigating secondary roads is difficult and time consuming.

Inclement weather conditions in the winter frequently force the closing of local schools due to road conditions. Telemedicine offered the opportunity to extend Baptist Health Corbin’s reach, to connect patients with highly qualified providers. Baptist Health now has telehealth options in all of its markets.

From Baptist Health

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