Pubdate: Fri, 22 Aug 2014
Source: Courier-Journal, The (Louisville, KY)
Copyright: 2014 The Courier-Journal
Author: Chris Kenning


With heroin use continuing to outstrip Kentucky's ability to treat
addicts, Louisville's only no-fee drug recovery facility plans to
nearly double its capacity for men.

The Healing Place on Friday will announce a two-year, $20 million
expansion of its West Market Street men's complex, increasing detox
beds from 24 to at least 50 and long-term recovery beds from 250 to
426 - a move officials say is driven primarily by the heroin epidemic.

Karyn Hascal, head of the nonprofit organization, said once-rare
heroin has "overwhelmed" the facility and now accounts for 90 percent
of clients in detox and 60 percent to 70 percent in the recovery
program. She said waiting lists had grown so long they stopped keeping

"It's been a nightmare to deal with," said Patrick Fogarty, the
Healing Place's chief program officer, adding that turning away a
client struggling with the "Russian roulette" of heroin means knowing
"there's a damn good chance (they) might not make it."

Advocates hope the added capacity will help stem the tide of a
powerfully addicting drug that in recent years has led to increasing
numbers of deadly overdoses and strained resources at local jails and

The state attorney general's office says Kentucky has one-tenth of the
treatment beds needed. And only 40 of the 301 treatment and recovery
facilities in the state offer 24-hour residential care, The
Courier-Journal has found.

Mayor Greg Fischer said the Healing Place expansion was "critically
needed in our community."

It is being funded by grants, including a gift from the James Graham
Brown Foundation, low-income housing tax credits and bonds. Healing
Place officials say they still have to raise nearly $10 million as
part of a campaign they plan to highlight on Friday.

Starting as soon as December, they will tear down existing
administration and dorm structures in the 1000 block of West Market to
build two four-story buildings for expanded detox and dorm space. The
project will take place in phases to allow services to continue.

Advocates say the effort could reduce the costs to taxpayers of EMS
calls, emergency room detox visits and jail time.

"It's going to help tremendously," said Mark Bolton, chief of Metro
Corrections, which has had to deal with 30 to 90 inmates a day
detoxing from heroin. Most are broke and uninsured, which means for
them, "the Healing Place is really the only game in town."

A recent report by the state Office of Drug Control Policy found that
heroin overdose deaths in Kentucky continued to surge in 2013. Of the
722 overdose deaths autopsied by the Kentucky medical examiner's
office last year, 32 percent were attributed to heroin, compared with
20 percent in 2012.

In Louisville, the number of heroin trafficking charges went from a
single inmate in 2011 to 71 in 2013, and 100 from January to May this
year. The surge - also seen in other parts of the country - is an
outgrowth of prescription drug abuse that advocates say accelerated
after authorities enacted a pain pill crackdown.

That trend, and the publicity surrounding it, has pushed up demand for
treatment, Hascal said.

"People come to our detox unit, and we don't have any beds," she said.
"They're sick, and they don't have anywhere else to go."

Most of the heroin addicts coming for treatment at the Healing Place
are 18 to 30 years old, with many coming from southern Louisville. But
the fastest-growing area from which they're seeing heroin clients is
the eastern suburbs, including St. Matthews and Prospect.

For many, the fallout from heroin - losing jobs, families or homes -
is quick. "It gets real intense, real quick. They slide very quickly,"
said Healing Place spokeswoman Marla Highbaugh.

She said the nonprofit's backlog among women is less acute than among
men, who seek help there at a rate three times that of women. Women
are served at a facility on South 15th Street.

The Healing Place uses a model that includes peer mentoring and
recovery classes and aids participants in returning to productive
lives. It says 75 percent of clients are sober one year after
completing the program.

Jefferson District Judge Stephanie Pearce Burke, who runs a drug
court, said heroin addicts need such wraparound services.

"You have functional alcoholics," she said. "You don't see a lot of
functional heroin addicts."

Those helped by Healing Place include Kenny Stearns, 26, who said he
got into heroin after prescription painkillers became too expensive
and scarce. But his tolerance grew fast using heroin. He wound up
homeless and nearly died from an overdose before finding a slot at the
recovery center, where he is now a peer mentor.

Another former user, Tim Blanchet, 39, a one-time truck driver,
construction worker and stand-up comedian from Northern Kentucky, said
he also got hooked on heroin after using pills. After eventually
deciding to seek treatment, he got a ride to Louisville, where he
secured a opening. He's still in the program.

"It's changed my life 100 percent," he said.  
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