Confronting the Opioid Epidemic

No state has been hit harder by the opioid epidemic than Kentucky. None.

Rates of HIV, Hepatitis C, overdoes deaths and other afflicitions have risen significantly due to the scourge of opioid drug abuse and addiction.

What is ravaging much of America is destroying far too many Kentucky communities.

As the Commonwealth’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky is committed to meeting the challenge of opioids head on – in labs, in hospitals and clinics and directly in communities across the state.

With highly regarded researchers and clinical programs that have drawn national praise, UK and UK HealthCare are addressing opioid abuse in a multi-faceted fashion – helping those seeking recovery, and protecting those most vulernable, such as children, caught in addiction’s deadly path.

We are making a difference.

But there is much more to do.

As the University for Kentucky, we are committed to the work ahead.

There are many pathbreaking initiatives underway at UK and UK HealthCare to tackle opioid addiction and abuse.

Changing prescribing to prevent addiction

Our physicians understand they play a key role in combating the opioid epidemic. That's why our trauma unit has worked to reduce the number of prescriptions for opioids. In a state with the third-highest death rates from drug overdose, keeping people from ever becoming addicted is integral to turning the tide on the epidemic. By changing prescribing habits and introducing new guidelines, the number of opioids administered to patients has been cut in half.

Learn how we're changing prescribing habits to prevent opioid abuse. 

Finding PATHways for change that go Beyond Birth

At UK HealthCare, pregnancy is treated as an opportunity for women to find support in their efforts to enter recovery. With access to an obstetrician, psychiatrist, neonatologist, peer support and social programs patients are given a solid platform on which to rebuild their lives. The Perinatal Assessment and Treatment Home (PATHways) clinic provides a holistic approach to long term recovery and the Beyond Birth Program offers women the opportunity to continue that care after delivery.

Learn about PATHways and our approach to helping pregnant women. 



Developing new ways to deliver evidence-based care

Our physicians are working to develop better ways to deliver the care patients with opioid use disorder need. Medication assisted treatment, specifically buprenorphine, has proven successful in treating opioid use disorder and our team has developed a new and safer way to get the medicine into the patient's body. With an implantable medication, risks of overdose, misuse and diversion associated with the current pill formulations are eliminated.

See how we're changing the game when it comes to medication assisted treatment. 


Using new strategies to address neonatal abstinence syndrome

Our new neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) unit is equipped with state of the art technology and highly trained staff. UK's Kentucky Children's Hospital has adopted a new strategy for treating babies with NAS "rooming-in." By keeping biological mothers close-at-hand clinicians have reduced length of stay and the proportion of infants treated with morphine.

See how we're rethinking treatment to help babies with NAS.


Addressing unintended consequences through harm reduction

Rates of Hepatitis C and HIV have increased at alarming rates due to the rise of injection drug use and syringe sharing. Researchers at UK work in the hardest hit region of the nation, Appalachia, to provide education, outreach and treatment and turn the tide on these deadly infections.

Learn about our community approach to reducing HIV and Hepatitis C.

Offering patients the first bridge to treatment

A partnership between the emergency departments at UK HealthCare and with financial support from the state through the 21st Century Cures Act our researchers and clinicians have created a setting where providers can refer patients to receive care for opioid use disorder. In the First Bridge Clinic, patients receive FDA-approved medications, counseling services and monitoring that promotes remission and recovery.

See how our emergency department serves as a bridge to treatment.


University of Kentucky Public Relations & Marketing

Media Contacts:  

Olivia Ramirez,, (859) 257-1076 or Kristi Willett,, (859) 323-6363