FRANKFORT, KY (WOWK) - Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear says the state is partnering with Bloomberg Philanthropies to reduce overdoses and save lives in the Bluegrass State.

Beshear says the organization is also committing $10 million to help increase access to medications and expand preventative services. Kentucky is one of seven states the organization is partnering with to address the issue. According to the governor's office, the other six states are Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

"Winning the battle against the opioid crisis and helping Kentuckians overcome addiction is a top priority for my administration," said Beshear. "This joint venture will allow us to further deliver the services and support our people need to achieve recovery and prevent future pain and suffering."

The partnership through the Bloomberg Philanthropies Overdose Prevention Initiative is set to last for five years. The CDC, John Hopkins University and the Pew Charitable Trusts are also among partners in the initiative, Beshear's office says.

"The overdose epidemic is one of the worst public health crises we've ever faced - 254 Americans die every single day from drug overdoses. It's tearing families apart across the country, and we need bolder, nationwide action, especially from the federal government - but we can't afford to wait until that happens," said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies and WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries, who announced the investment at the Bloomberg American Health Summit.

The governor's office says the number of overdose deaths in Kentucky began rising in late 2019. Between 2017 and 2018, the state had seen a 15% reduction in overdose deaths. In 2020, the state reached a tragic record of 1,964 Kentuckians who died due to an overdose, the most overdose deaths the state has ever recorded in a 12-month period and a 49% increase compared to the previous year.

"We recognize that we need to bring to bear every resource possible to address the public health crisis of addiction," said Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Eric Friedlander. "There is no single cause or cure. The disease of addiction is complex, multi-factorial and intersects with many long-standing priorities and challenges related to health, wellness, economic security and justice. We look forward to this collaborative partnership, lives saved and the recovery of many more Kentuckians."

Officials say the guiding principles for the prevention services include equity to ensure all populations benefit equally and that the state focuses on those most impacted; quality, which is rooted in science and innovations; scale to ensure the services are widely implemented throughout communities; and sustainability to build state infrastructures with laws, policies and adequate funding.