Majority Leader McConnell and Kentucky leaders working on legislation to address opioid crisis

As Kentucky continues to struggle with the impact of an opioid crisis, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell held a press conference in Louisville Monday morning to discuss legislation introduced to help transition people from treatment to employment.

Kentucky U.S. Senator McConnell stated the most important thing in addressing the opioid crisis is trying to get people back to work to assist in recovery. McConnell said the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery through Effective Employment and Reentry (CAREER) Act focuses on this strategy and will likely be part of a larger package seeking to address the opioid issue across the country, which he stated is a top priority of the U.S. Senate.

Provisions in the legislation would enable state-based pilot programs established under the bill to encourage local businesses and treatment groups to form partnerships to help individuals in recovery find and maintain employment. The CAREER Act would also encourage expanding transitional housing options for recovering addicts until they secure permanent arrangements and give states more flexibility to spend federal career services and training funds to support individuals transitioning from treatment to the workforce.

McConnell was joined at the press conference by members of the business community who participated in a roundtable on the issue Monday morning.

Kentucky Chamber Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Ashli Watts mentioned another roundtable recently convened by the organization with business leaders from five surrounding states that have been hit hardest by this epidemic to discuss the opioid crisis as a workforce problem and determine a path to move forward. Following the event, all five state Chamber presidents sent a letter to Leader McConnell and other federal legislators encouraging them to find a policy solution that truly focuses on treatment with an end goal: getting people on the path to recovery and back into the workforce.

Watts stated the CAREER Act will help the states hit hardest offer services for individuals transitioning out of treatment programs and back into the workforce.

“We know addiction is a lifelong disease, and individuals need support that extends beyond the doors of a treatment center and the Kentucky business community wants to be part of that solution. We know that a job and employment can be key to sobriety and by helping to get people healthy and back to work, it benefits employers, businesses and our communities overall,” Watts said.

Greater Louisville Inc. President and CEO Kent Oyler stated that not a day goes by that the Louisville chamber doesn’t hear something about the opioid issue and the applicant crisis it and other factors have caused.

“Jobs are a key part of long-term recovery. We need to do everything we can to lower the barriers to employment that are caused by addiction,” Oyler stated.

Scott Hesseltine, Vice President of Addiction Services at Centerstone, stated people are “hungry for the opportunity to transform and change their lives.” Hesseltine emphasized his organization has found that treatment alone is not the solution and added legislation like the CAREER Act answers the question of what’s next after treatment.

“We know that recovery occurs in the context of community and it is vital for individuals to be able to connect to support like housing and like employment,” Hesseltine said.

View video coverage from the press conference here:

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Jacqueline Pitts
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