AG announces $700,000 donation to Freedom House

By Justin Sayers

Commonwealth of Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear announced Wednesday that, along with state and local leaders, they will be donating $700,000 to Freedom House to support residential treatment programs for alcohol and drug-dependent mothers.

Beshear presented a check to representatives from Volunteers of America Mid-State, which runs Freedom House, at a press conference Thursday morning in front of the center. He called the donation an effort to curb a rising drug epidemic in the state by providing services supporting drug-free mothers and ensuring the health of their babies.

"I certainly believe every child is a child of God ... and every child deserves a fair opportunity at life," Beshear said.

The $700,000 donation comes from a settlement with Purdue Pharma, a private pharmaceutical company that produces oxycontin, and will be given over the course of the next 26 months, Beshear said. The company agreed to pay Kentucky $24 million in December after the state accused them of misleading doctors and patients in its marketing of the drug.

In the recently passed state budget, lawmakers appropriated the funds to 15 different recovery facilities and drug treatment centers, including Freedom House, Beshear said. Nearly $5 million in funding has gone to eight drug recovery and treatment organizations across the state, and a substance abuse treatment program for women in Lexington is scheduled to receive money Thursday.

Beshear said the Commonwealth of Kentucky is dealing with an epidemic of overdose. According to Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy's 2015 Overdose Fatality Report, the number of fatal opioid overdoses rose from 1,071 in 2014 to 1,248 in 2015.

"When we lose someone to addiction, it not only scars that family but also that community," Beshear said. "Addiction is not political. ... It hits us all in our families the same."

Jennifer Hancock, president and CEO of Volunteers of America Mid-States, said at the press conference the money will be used to expand outpatient and intensive outpatient services. She said demand is currently the highest it's ever been as they have a waiting list of 25 pregnant women in need of help.

Hancock said Freedom House offers individual, group and family counseling, drug and alcohol dependency education, parenting classes, life skills training, vocational training and employment services, and child-care services. Since their creation, more than 100 babies have been born drug-free to women in the program.

"We are all better off because they have healthy starts to life," Hancock said.

Katie Warren, a graduate of Freedom House who now serves as ambassador, called going to Freedom House the "best decision of her life." She said the program taught her how to overcome her opiate addiction and live life sober.

"I lost so many friends and relationships with the people that I loved," Warren said, who now has two healthy kids and has been drug-free for four years. "(Freedom House) gave me my life again."

State Rep. Jim Wayne, a democrat whose district includes the center, said the location of Freedom House has long had a history of serving vulnerable Kentuckians. Before it belonged to Volunteers of America Mid-States, it was a Red Cross hospital.

He said the money will help combat a problem where "human lives are at stake."

"Let's get off our butts and continue to work to fight this horrible disease," Wayne said.