Vice President Pence, HHS Secretary Azar Join Gov. Bevin in Southeast Kentucky to Announce Major Opioid Grant and Visit with Military Personnel Conducting Health Clinics

MANCHESTER, Ky. – Gov. Matt Bevin today was joined in Southeast Kentucky by Vice President Mike Pence, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, and Congressman Hal Rogers to announce a major opioid grant and visit the military’s Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) mission command center, Operation Coal Country, in Southeast Kentucky.

Vice President Pence announced more than $9 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to assist in Kentucky’s fight against the opioid epidemic, including $750,000 in training grants for the University of Pikeville, $167,000 for prevention and treatment services at Eastern Kentucky University, and $167,000 to Kentucky-based Grace Community Health Center, among others.

“We are honored to host Vice President Pence and Secretary Azar in Kentucky and to have the opportunity to visit with military medical personnel participating in Operation Coal Country,” said Gov. Bevin. “The military’s IRT program has provided essential no-cost medical services and screenings in Eastern Kentucky, and we are grateful to all of the military personnel for their dedication to serving Kentuckians during their mission. The Vice President’s visit today underscores the Trump Administration’s unwavering commitment to advancing public health, and the announcement of additional grant funding for the Commonwealth’s opioid response and treatment efforts is critical as we continue the fight to end this scourge.”

Since December 2015, Kentucky has made significant progress in combating the opioid epidemic within the Commonwealth. Kentucky’s recently released 2018 overdose report showed fatal drug overdoses in Kentucky declined by nearly 15% compared to the previous year.

The Bevin Administration has made attacking the opioid crisis a top priority, advancing a series of programs and policy initiatives to improve access to treatment and save lives. These efforts include utilizing grants and expanded funding to increase access and training for naloxone, limiting opioid prescriptions, expanding addiction treatment services for incarcerated individuals, constructing innovative public awareness resources, and launching the Kentucky State Police Angel Initiative.

Vice President Pence, Gov. Bevin, Sec. Azar and Congressman Rogers were briefed by military commanders on the IRT program, which is a joint-service medical mission primarily comprised of forces from the Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, U.S. Navy Reserve, and U.S. Army Reserve. The program provides medical troops with “hands-on” readiness training, while at the same time providing direct and lasting benefits to those who visit the clinic locations.

In 2018, the Kentucky Department for Local Government hosted an IRT, Operation Bobcat, in Breathitt, Estill, Lee and Owsley counties. This mission provided the military with 13,000 training hours, treated 2,662 patients, performed 11,275 procedures, and provided $1,003,688 in services to the community.

This year’s mission, Operation Coal County, is being held in Clay, Jackson, Knox and Leslie counties and is projected to provide $1,000,000 of care to the community that otherwise would not have been available.

To view the archived video live stream from today's visit by Vice President Pence and Secretary Azar, click here.

Center of Excellence in Rural Health Releases Appalachian Research Day Agenda

HAZARD, Ky. - The University of Kentucky Center of Excellence in Rural Health (CERH) has released the agenda for the fifth annual Appalachian Research Day: Come Sit on the Porch.  The one-day event, which shares results of health research conducted with communities in Appalachia, will be held Wednesday, September 18 at the First Federal Center in Hazard. Registration for the event closes on September 12. Click here to register or to view the full agenda.

UK researchers work closely with communities throughout Appalachia to learn more about health issues and improve wellbeing. Appalachian Research Day is an opportunity to highlight community-based research that begins at the local level and builds upon relationships between people, neighborhoods, and groups who have common interests and concerns.

Appalachian Research Day.jpg

Highlights of this year’s conference include:

  • Understanding and Improving Health: Lessons from Kentucky and America’s Poorest State, by Randy Wycoff, Dean, College of Public Health, East Tennessee State University

  • Health Disparities in Hard to Reach Populations: A Community Health Worker Perspective, Kentucky Homeplace CHW Panel

  • A Regional Approach to Improving Health Outcomes in the Kentucky River Area Development District, Scott Lockard, Director, Kentucky River District Health Department

  • Leveraging Strengths and Assets to Improve Health and Well-Being in Appalachia, Mike Meit, Co-Director, NORC Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis

  • Operation Change Perry County, featuring an Operation Change Participant Panel moderated by Keisha Hudson, Research Assistant, University of Kentucky Center of Excellence in Rural Health

  • Twenty research posters on a variety of health topics will be presented and judged.  Winners will be announced during the lunch.

  • Lunch entertainment will feature Appalachian Storytelling by drama students from Knott County High School, Johnson County High School and Hazard Independent High School                                             

Click here to register or to view the full agenda. For more information, contact, 606-439-3557.

SOAR Summit to Feature Innovative Platform for Attendees to Share Ideas

PIKEVILLE, Ky. – The 2019 SOAR Summit will allow attendees to contribute like never before with the integration of an interactive crowdsourcing platform.

The Summit is set for September 5-6 at the Appalachian Wireless Arena (formerly the East Kentucky Expo Center) in Pikeville, Ky.

Jared Arnett, executive director of Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR), said the Summit will incorporate Slido, an application that has been used in over 320,000 events across the globe, to enhance communication and increase interaction among Summit attendees.

“We want to provide a platform where we can crowdsource ideas to help us tactfully move our Blueprint forward,” said Arnett. “Sun Tzu once said, ‘Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to history.  Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.’”

The technology will be a critical part of Blueprint discussions held during the first day of the Summit on Thursday, September 5.  This will include discussions on each of the seven goals outlined in SOAR’s Blueprint for the Future of Appalachia. Those goals are:

• Broadband Expansion

• 21st Century Workforce

• Small Business in the Digital Economy

• Industrial Recruitment

• Healthy Communities

• Local Food

• Regional Tourism

“It is amazing to think how far we have come since the first Summit. Just a few years ago we gathered information from working groups and listening sessions and compiled it into a Blueprint,” said Arnett. “We are building on that by leveraging technology to crowdsource ideas.  Slido enables those attending the Summit – and those watching via LiveStream – the ability to contribute and share ideas to move our region forward.”

This year’s keynote speaker is ABC World News “Person of the Year” Major Dan Rooney.  Rooney is the founder of the Folds of Honor Foundation and is a social entrepreneur, PGA golf professional, and America hero.  The keynote speaker is presented by Appalachian Wireless.

Other speakers include: SOAR Principal Officers Congressman Hal Rogers and Governor Matt Bevin; SOAR Executive Board Chair Kimberly McCann; Dr Eli Capilouto, president of the University of Kentucky; Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles; and Arnett.

The first-ever Startup Appalachia Business Pitch Competition will be held at 5 p.m., Thursday, September 5 at New Beginnings Fellowship Church, which is located adjacent to the Appalachian Wireless Arena.  Applications are being accepted now at

The SOAR Summit Reception will be presented by Alltech and held at the Dueling Barrels Distillery in downtown Pikeville from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday, September 5.  The Reception has limited capacity.

Registration is still open for the 2019 SOAR Summit.  You can register online at or by calling (606) 766-1160.  There are also scholarships available to waive registration costs.  For more information on the scholarships, call (606) 766-1160 or email


UK Launches New Website for HEALing Communities Study Update

LEXINGTON, Ky.  – The University of Kentucky has launched a new website for information, news-related updates and excerpts regarding their recently awarded $87 million HEALing Communities Study (Helping to End Addiction Long-term) cooperative agreement.

News releases, commentaries and updates regarding the project, funded by the National Institutes for Health (NIH) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), can be found at

The four-year cooperative agreement is the largest grant ever received by UK.  The grant was awarded to UK’s Center on Drug and Alcohol Research (CDAR) in partnership with the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, local Agency for Substance Abuse Policy (ASAP) boards, district and local health departments and consortium members. Kentucky and UK represent one of only four states across the United States selected by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the NIH, for this groundbreaking effort.

Combining the expertise of 19 UK researchers from across six colleges along with the three other state study site teams in New York, Massachusetts and Ohio, this is a multi-site implementation research study to test the impact of a community-engaged intervention to implement an integrated set of evidence-based practices across healthcare, behavioral health, justice, and other community-based settings.

The goal is to prevent and treat opioid misuse and opioid use disorder (OUD) within highly affected communities in four states and reduce opioid related deaths by 40 percent over three years. Kentucky is partnering with 16 communities to measure the impact of these efforts. Sharon Walsh, Ph.D., director of UK's CDAR, is the principal investigator of the Kentucky study site and will lead UK’s team of more than 100 total researchers, staff and state and community partners involved in the ambitious project.

More than 2 million Americans live with an opioid use disorder; in 2017, more than 47,000 Americans died of an opioid overdose. Kentucky currently is ranked 5th in the U.S. for opioid-related overdose deaths and has suffered through the opioid epidemic since its inception. 

“The opioid epidemic does not discriminate by zip code, race, income, or any other demographic characteristic,” said Eli Capilouto, President of the University of Kentucky. “The discoveries and solutions we find here – in these communities, from Barbourville to Louisville; from Covington to Lexington to Olive Hill – can be scaled up and replicated… And what works here can work beyond our borders, throughout a country ravaged by the epidemic of opioid use disorder.”

For ongoing updates about UK’s HEALing Communities study, visit

UK to Host 2020 Appalachian Studies Association Conference

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Students and faculty affiliated with the University of Kentucky’s Appalachian CenterCollege of Arts and Sciences and Graduate Appalachian Research Community (GARC) are partnering with the Appalachian Studies Association (ASA) to host its 43rd annual conference March 12-15, 2020, on the UK campus.

The conference, titled “Appalachian Understories: Growing Hope and Resilience from Commonwealth to Global Commons,” will engage in conversations about Appalachian forests, black Appalachians, women, gender and sexuality, health and healing, and hope spots. Oral history, film-making, literature, music, photography and other art forms will be among the featured “understories” exploration methods.

“We are thrilled to host the ASA on UK's campus for the first time in the history of the organization," said Kathryn Engle, associate director of the UK Appalachian Center and Appalachian Studies Program. "For over 40 years the UK Appalachian Center has been the premier site for research and engagement in the region. The upcoming ASA conference will provide the opportunity to highlight all the scholarship, creative work, and community collaborations spearheaded by UK students, faculty and staff."

"When I came to UK in 2010, I found the community of scholars involved in the Appalachian Studies Program to be a welcoming and supportive network," said Jennifer Cramer, associate professor and chair of UK's linguistics department and program chair for the ASA conference. "I hope that visitors to Lexington get even a small sense of the vibrancy and support that led me to Appalachian Studies here at UK in the first place."

Kathryn Newfont, a UK associate professor of history and ASA 2020 conference chair, said all UK students will be able to attend the conference for free.

“Thanks to broad support from the university and beyond, ASA 2020 will be a feast of learning," Newfont said. "UK’s longstanding international reputation for leadership in Appalachian Studies was among the reasons I joined the faculty four years ago, and the ASA 2020 conference is a great opportunity to showcase and continue growing that leadership."

For more information about the conference and submitting proposals, please see the Preliminary Call for Participation. More information about online submissions will be available Sept. 3.

The steering committee for ASA will be gathering at UK for their summer retreat July 26-28. The Appalachian Center invites students, faculty and community members who have interests in the Appalachian region to a reception with the committee members from 5:30-7 p.m. Friday, July 26, at the Appalachian Center at 624 Maxwelton Court. To RSVP, please contact Emma Kiser at

ASA, the premier Appalachian Studies nonprofit professional organization in the world, promotes and engages dialogue, research, scholarship, education, creative expression and action among a diverse and inclusive group of scholars, educators, practitioners, grassroots activists, students, individuals, groups and institutions. ASA's mission is driven by its commitment to foster quality of life, democratic participation and appreciation of Appalachian experiences regionally, nationally and internationally.

The University of Kentucky Appalachian Center contributes to the land grant mission of UK by fostering community-university partnerships in research, learning and engagement in Appalachia, a region faced with unique opportunities and challenges toward sustainable development in a globalized context.

Camp UNITE Kicks Off 13th Year of Camp With Over 200 kids

Whitley County, Ky. - Camp UNITE kicked off their 13th year of camp on Tuesday.

The camp is part of Operation UNITE, a Blueprint Partner of SOAR, which serves 32 counties in Eastern and Southern Kentucky. It helps fight and prevent substance abuse.

The campers who attend are in 6th, 7th and 8th grades.

They participate in many activity classes, games, speaker sessions and volunteer work.

To read more about Camp UNITE 2019, read this story published by WYMT, an East Kentucky Partner of SOAR.

To learn more about Operation Unite, visit their website.

Op-Ed | We're not simply treating the symptoms of poverty, we are transforming Appalachia Kentucky

Jared Arnett, executive director of Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR) recently penned an op-ed piece on the Appalachian Regional Commission’s report highlighting economic status designations for states and counties throughout the 13-state region that encompasses the Appalachian Mountains.

You can read the op-ed piece in the Louisville Courier-Journal and the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Journal of Appalachian Health Publishes Inaugural Issue

Lexington, Ky. - Scholars based at the University of Kentucky College of Public Health recently launched a new, open-access, online publication — the Journal of Appalachian Health (JAH) — to highlight research focused on the health of people living in Appalachia. In collaboration with UK Libraries and the University Press of Kentucky, and with the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and partner institutions across Appalachia, the founding editors took the first issue live in the spring of 2019. 

“I am delighted to have worked with colleagues to create a source for disseminating solutions to the health problems of the region where I was born, raised and practiced. I hope it will serve to improve the information that all of us need to improve the health of those in Appalachia,” said Dr. F. Douglas Scutchfield, editor-in-chief of the JAH and Bosomworth Professor in Health Services Research and Policy.

The first issue of the JAH includes articles on topics including childhood exposure to second-hand smoke, the relationship between income inequality and early mortality, and efforts to increase preventive care to in hopes of decreasing the prevalence of diabetes.

The inaugural issue also includes an introduction to the new publication, “Delivering health knowledge and wisdom from the hills and hollows of Appalachia,” wherein the editors invite readers to find the “knowledge in the pages of Appalachia’s hills.” In this opening essay, the editors lay out the case for the JAH. They describe “a need to provide an outlet for scholarship about Appalachia’s health so that knowledge, and occasionally wisdom, is shared with those who care about and are committed to improving the region’s health.”

“We are very excited to launch this new journal as a hub for community and academic research in Appalachia,” said Erin Haynes, DrPH, senior associate editor of the JAH and professor and chair of Epidemiology at the UK College of Public Health. “We anticipate that the journal will foster new research collaborations that will ultimately improve the health of the region.”

“UK Libraries is proud to publish the JAH on the UKnowledge platform,” said Adrian Ho, director of Digital Scholarship of the Libraries. “Our collaboration with the journal team is an exemplar of how UK can make a positive impact on the Commonwealth and Appalachian communities through the synergy of expertise and resources from different campus units. We look forward to publishing more research focused on improving people’s health in the Appalachian region.” 

The JAH will be released quarterly. Submissions for future issues may be directed to More information on the journal, as well as an option to sign up for publication alerts for future issues, can be found on their website. The JAH is also on social media platforms FacebookYouTubeLinkedInInstagram and Twitter