Campus News

Grant to Help UK Extension Expand Opioid Prevention and Recovery Efforts

Detail of contents of prescription bottle
The two-year grant will allow extension to bring new and innovative programs to the state and build upon its already successful efforts.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 12, 2019)  The University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service recently received more than $1 million to help further the organization’s statewide educational efforts in opioid prevention and recovery.

The grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration will allow Cooperative Extension Service professionals to implement new programming efforts in South Central and Western Kentucky during the next two years.

“Kentuckians said substance use and its related effects was the most significant issue facing the Commonwealth today in extension’s recently released community assessment survey. This grant will help us aggressively address this issue, and help set communities on the path to recovery,” said Alison Davis, project lead and director of UK’s Community Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky.

Many of the programs in this grant will continue to build on UK Cooperative Extension’s existing efforts to reduce opioid use and aid in recovery efforts across the state. Extension already has successful programs in place that teach gardening, nutrition and life skills education to those recovering from substance use addiction and support programs for families with a loved one with a substance use disorder.

“The Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service is currently recognized as a leader among the land-grant university system for outreach efforts targeting substance use prevention and recovery,” said Jennifer Hunter, assistant director for family and consumer sciences extension and one of the co-leaders on the grant. “We are excited to be able to continue to expand our educational efforts and enhance the level of resources available at the community level.”

As part of the grant, extension will offer an Addiction 101 course geared toward health care workers, extension agents and community leaders. The program will talk about the science behind addiction including genetic and hereditary risk factors for developing an addiction disorder. Alex Elswick, UK extension specialist for substance use prevention and recovery, will lead the program.

“We want to remove the stigmas associated with addiction, so health care workers and community members feel more comfortable and equipped to help those struggling with opioid use addiction and recovery,” he said.

Extension personnel will also offer Botvin LifeSkills Training, which is a national, evidence-based substance abuse prevention program, to area middle school students.

Melissa Bond, program leader for UK’s Arts Extension program, will partner with the UK College of Fine Arts to lead the arts expression component of the grant. This component will give individuals, families and communities a healthy, therapeutic outlet to express their feelings of anger and sadness with substance use addiction. 

Financial issues tend to plague those recovering from a substance use disorder and can be a cause of subsequent relapses. To help these individuals, extension will expand their release of a financial education curriculum developed by Elswick and Kelly May, UK senior extension associate. The curriculum, “Recovering your Finances,” specifically addresses financial issues those in recovery may face and guidance for overcoming those obstacles. It is being piloted in Mercer County this fall and will also be offered in Boyd, Bourbon, Knox and Leslie counties through a grant UK received from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Community Development Initiative.

Extension will also continue to offer support to local community health coalitions who are addressing substance use prevention and recovery.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion three years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" two years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for four straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.