International Visitors explore policies to address drug use in Louisville and the Philippines

From June 27-July 1, a group of four Filipino officials and professionals from different sectors including the federal government, local government, non-governmental/private organizations and law enforcement visited Louisville to learn about Kentucky’s efforts to reduce demand for illicit drugs and improve rehabilitation programs for addicts.

Visitors spent two days attending meetings with various organizations and officials, including the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness where they discussed a
newly implemented, long-term program aiming to address the root causes of drug abuse and
reduce addiction in the Louisville area. Visitors also attended a roundtable discussion to explore
ways the Philippines can improve drug rehabilitation programs and reduce illicit drug use in the
country. The roundtable included professionals from CenterStone Rehabilitation Center, the
Morton Center, the Healing Place and other local organizations.

At the state capitol in Frankfort, another meeting was attended by the Executive
Director of the Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP), Van Ingram, as well as Dave Hopkins, the administrator of the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting System (KASPER), which tracks prescriptions of controlled substances and medications throughout the state. Also in attendance were officials from the Kentucky Medical Licensure Board and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. During the program, the breadth and complexity of the drug epidemic in Kentucky was addressed along with the historical causes of the opioid epidemic. The ODCP also addressed the ways that the epidemic was being addressed by various departments and organizations in Kentucky, with policies including prescription limits, “Good Samaritan” laws and education on the use of Narcan (Naxolone)—a medication used to treat drug overdoses. Kentucky has also become the state with the second-highest number of safe syringe exchange programs in the country, reducing both Hepatitis and HIV transmission and providing a space for addicts to get help.

Visitors from the Philippines also educated local officials about issues with illicit drugs in the Philippines and the efforts made across government and private facilities to reduce addiction and drug  production. They discussed the framework of a rights and evidence-based approach in the Philippines to treat addicts and explored ways that policies from the U.S. and Kentucky could be adapted for the Philippine model.

Overall, the visit was a very exciting look into the drug epidemic both in the U.S. and
Kentucky as well as the Philippines, and introduced ways that the countries can learn and work together to tackle the transnational issue of addiction. The trip was concluded by an active day at the historic Mammoth Cave National Park and the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park.

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