Bill to establish Recovery Ready Communities clears first legislative hurdle

On Wednesday, the House Local Government Committee passed legislation aimed at helping Kentuckians with substance use disorders in all 120 counties.

House Bill 7, filed by Rep. Adam Bowling (R-Middlesboro), establishes a framework for communities to become “Recovery Ready,” bringing much needed consistency to local substance use prevention, treatment and recovery efforts.

Bowling told the committee Kentucky is currently losing the battle against substance use disorder as overdose deaths are up over 20 percent and substance use is tearing Kentucky families apart and costing the state in many ways.

The bill, Bowling said, establishes an advisory council housed under the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy with 19 members from different areas including business, recovery, education, local government, health care and others that will determine appropriate and meaningful “Recovery Ready” standards for the commonwealth’s communities.

House Bill 7 was passed through committee with a committee substitute that adds more people to the advisory council including some individuals that are in recovery and formerly incarcerated.

Kentucky Chamber Vice President of Public Affairs Kate Shanks testified in favor of the bill noting the organization’s work on policies surrounding justice reforms and substance use disorder in recent years. She noted the state’s low workforce participation rate is in part driven by addiction, and how the Chamber has recognized the role the business community can play on this issue.

Shanks said it is important for Kentucky communities, groups, and others come together to begin to help those struggling with substance use disorder.

“House Bill 7 recognizes the importance of a local approach to addressing substance use disorders. We know that that is a problem that hits every community. We know that in addition to a job, housing, transportation, access to other resources is important to staying in recovery and so we welcome the local leadership this bill will support,” Shanks said. “We know transformational employers that hire people in recovery will benefit from these local efforts and will also engage and help develop them.”

Ashley McCarty, business liaison with the Chamber’s Workforce Recovery Program for Businesses, also spoke to legislators about her own personal struggles with substance use disorder and how she is now using her experience to help Kentucky companies fix their outdated HR policies to allow for a fair chance and notice early warning signs.

McCarty, who is seven years in active recovery from opioid addiction, explained she was among the top five pharmaceutical sales reps in the country when she had a few surgeries where she was prescribed opioids for pain. It was at that point that everything began to fall apart, as she developed a dependency on those medication, her performance plummeted and she even attempted suicide.

This legislation, she said, helps those who are struggling who do not seek the help they need because they often don’t know how.

Kentucky League of Cities Executive Director and CEO JD Chaney told the committee this bill gives Kentucky a chance to “walk the walk” on this issue and provides an opportunity to engage local governments in a meaningful way to help those in their community that need it.

ACLU Policy Strategist Amanda Hall noted in her personal experience with substance use disorder she ended up in prison because there weren’t enough resources and it took four years for her to get treatment. She stated the bill provides a unique opportunity to rewrite mistakes of the past and address an issue that is crucial to the health of the entire state.

House Bill 7 passed through committee unanimously and now moves to the full House for a vote on the floor. 

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