Officials say out-of-state drug treatment patients are taking resources away from Kentucky cities


Some local officials are raising concerns that Kentucky taxpayers are helping foot the bill for drug recovery services for people from other states.

The Somerset City Council approved a resolution this week urging state lawmakers to ban the practice of recruiting people from out of state to come to drug recovery facilities in Kentucky.

Somerset Mayor Alan Keck, who introduced the resolution, said he and city leaders strongly support substance abuse recovery, but feel Medicaid and other resources should benefit Kentuckians, not support drug treatment for people from out of state.

Some recovery housing, also called sober living homes, bring in people from Tennessee and other states, then seek to have them covered by Medicaid in order to get paid for services, local officials say.

“I still think it’s an abuse of Kentucky Medicaid if they’re treating out-of-state patients,” Keck said.

The resolution approved by the Somerset Council said recovery resources in Kentucky cities and the state should not be “burdened with treating clients from other states, as that could have a negative impact on Kentucky communities and the work of helping residents struggling with substance abuse.”

Somerset, Kentucky, Mayor Alan Keck responds to a question from moderators during the Kentucky Republican Party's gubernatorial primary debate in Louisville, Kentucky, Tuesday, March 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, Pool)

Somerset, Kentucky, Mayor Alan Keck responds to a question from moderators during the Kentucky Republican gubernatorial primary debate in Louisville, Kentucky, Tuesday, March 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, Pool)

Elizabethtown Mayor Jeff Gregory said there have also been cases of people coming to sober living homes there from other states.

Sober living homes typically use methods including abstinence, peer supervision training, and group support to try to help people stop using drugs.

Somerset’s resolution asks state lawmakers to approve legislation prohibiting “the commercial advertising, employment, and commercial transportation of patients from other states” to Kentucky for the purpose of providing substance abuse recovery.

Bryce Mitchell, spokesman for the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said people must live in Kentucky to be eligible for coverage under Medicaid, and that state officials use a variety of sources to verify that people who apply for Medicaid actually do so. In the country.

Under federal law, there is no minimum time a person must live in Kentucky to receive services. The federal rule specifically states that a state cannot deny Medicaid eligibility because a person has not lived in the state for a specified period, Mitchell said.

Kentucky covers substance abuse treatment services under Medicaid.

John Wilson, president of the Kentucky Association of Independent Recovery Organizations, OR Kairossaid in a statement to the Herald-Leader that providers understand and share the concerns expressed by local officials.

“We want the public to know that this is not a widespread practice among reputable providers in the health care industry,” Wilson said in response to an inquiry about recovery residences that bring in clients from out of state and seek to cover them under Medicaid.

“Indeed, as a rule, Kairos opposes any such efforts, and we are committed to partnering with our federal, state and local leaders to improve the lives of individuals while also working to improve the commonwealth’s communities,” Wilson said.

Sober living homes contacted by the Herald-Leader did not respond.

“They are desperate”

Bringing people from out of state into recovery housing in Kentucky has contributed to homelessness and crime in some cases, local officials said.

That’s because if an out-of-state person gets out of a sober house or is evicted for a violation — or if they ultimately don’t qualify for Medicaid coverage — they sometimes have no way to return home.

Keck said there have been three cases in Somerset of people from recovery centers stealing cars to return to another state.

Somerset Police Chief William Hunt said: “They got here and then found themselves stranded without any resources to get home, and they are desperate.”

In a case last Sunday, two Tennessee men seized a car from someone at a gas station, Hunt said.

The car’s owner told police he left it running when he entered a convenience store and two men got into it and tried to drive away, but they hit a power pole and the car got stuck in the snow. The passenger fled, but the car owner caught the driver and detained him until the police arrived, according to what the source said.

Police charged Jordan Lee Foster, 28, of Rutledge, Tennessee, with theft and criminal mischief.

Foster told police that he and the other man left Lake Cumberland Recovery in Somerset, and that he took the car back to Tennessee, according to the citation.

The owner of Lake Cumberland Recovery did not return phone calls.

Some recovery facilities have also put a strain on local food pantries because they are not providing food to residents, so they are asking for help at food pantries.

Dawn Cash, CEO Al Barakat Al Warmah Community KitchenElizabethtown’s main food pantry, said the city’s sober living homes bring in people from other states and then ask them to apply for Medicaid and food stamps.

Some homes routinely send residents to the pantry to get food, Cash said.

The pantry also provided items such as toilet paper and personal hygiene products to residents of sober houses in the city, Cash said.

The pantry tracked the cost of providing food to sober house residents from September 2022 to February 2023. Cash said the amount came to $75,000.

It’s not clear how many of those people were from out of state, but the pantry documented Tennessee and Missouri residents coming from local sober homes, Cash said.

“It obviously detracts from what I can offer a family or a senior,” Cash said of catering to sober house residents.

The pantry also paid transportation costs for people to return home in other states, she said.

“It was draining”

In Somerset, God’s food pantry The program discontinued a food program aimed at helping the homeless because of demand for food from sober house residents, said Brenda Russell, executive director.

These residents were not homeless, but the pantry provided them with bags of food through this program and the demand grew to become very large, Russell said.

“It was draining,” Russell said.

Russell said warehouse workers can tell some people from recovery housing that they are from Tennessee because they have identification cards or driver’s licenses from there.

J.D. Chaney, Executive Director and CEO Kentucky League of CitiesHe said the proliferation of sober living homes has become a problem for many cities.

In response, the association helped draft House Bill 248 in the 2023 legislative session.

Measure Requires recovery housing to be certified By groups that set minimum standards and will bring greater oversight. It goes into effect later this year.

the City of Elizabethtown It gave final approval last week to measure setting standards in HB 248 by local ordinance before the state law takes effect.

“Consistent standards”

The number of sober living homes in Elizabethtown has risen to more than 150, raising concerns among residents, Gregory said.

Gregory said the growth has contributed to increased crime and the need for ambulance transportation and emergency room visits.

“We inherit problems from out of state,” Gregory said.

Jeff Gregory is the Mayor of Elizabethtown, Kentucky.

Jeff Gregory is the Mayor of Elizabethtown, Kentucky.

In one case, a Rhode Island woman left a local sober house and ended up staying at Warm Blessings for several days before eventually “alternating between living on the street and living on the street,” Warm Blessings, a food pantry in Elizabethtown, said in a report. . “Couch surfing,” the facility said in a report.

A sober living home left an oxygen-dependent man on a Warm Blessings porch overnight even though the facility told the sober living home he was out of the room, according to the report from the food pantry.

State and local officials praised HB 248 as a step forward in providing quality substance abuse recovery services.

primary sponsor, Rep. Samara Heavrin (R-Litchfield).said in a statement when Gov. Andy Beshear signed the law that it “will ensure consistent standards of care and services across the state” for recovery homes.

Gregory said at the time that the measure would enable officials to “monitor and enforce regulations that ensure these facilities operate properly for those who are in the most vulnerable stage of their lives.”

However, the law would not prevent a sober living facility from recruiting out-of-state clients to come to Kentucky and apply for Medicaid coverage.

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