FRANKFORT — When Mike Donta looked for help for his 24-year-old son, Michael, who was addicted to pain medication several years ago, the nearest available treatment bed to their Ashland home was hours away in Elizabethtown.
Donta managed to get his son into treatment but eventually, the younger Donta took his own life. But soon those in northeastern Kentucky won’t have to look so far away for help.
Mike Donta was on hand Monday as Attorney General Jack Conway, Gov. Steve Beshear, first lady Jane Beshear, and House Speaker Greg Stumbo announced the state will use $32 million from a drug settlement with pharmaceutical companies to combat drug addiction in Kentucky, including building a Recovery Kentucky Center in Ashland.
Kentucky Recovery is a joint program of the state Department of Local Government, Department of Corrections and the Kentucky House Corporation to provide housing and treatment for recovering addicts. It was begun during the administration of former Gov. Ernie Fletcher. Currently there are 10 centers in the state.
As Conway talked about the settlement, he recounted Donta’s story about having to travel so far for treatment and promised, “Mike, that won’t have to happen anymore.” He said it was clear the northeastern quarter of the state is underserved by treatment facilities.
Donta said Recovery Kentucky has had plans for an Ashland facility but had so far been unable to come up with the funds to build it. The settlement with the drug companies will change that.
Conway sued Merck and GlaxoSmithKline for failure to disclose health risks of drugs the companies marketed and settled the two cases for a total of $40 million. The settlement agreements, filed in Franklin Circuit Court, require $32 million of the money go toward drug abuse treatment.
In addition to the $500,000 to build the new Recovery Kentucky facility in Ashland, Independence House in Corbin and Chrysalis House in Lexington will share $1 million to offer substance abuse treatment to pregnant women.