Eastern Kentucky University

Manchester, Kentucky

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you all for being here.  I’m truly grateful to have the opportunity to be here with Secretary Azar, as well as Governor Bevin and Congressman Rogers, really, to celebrate the progress that Kentucky has made.  It was heart wrenching to reflect on the statistics of what was happening here in Kentucky over much of the last decade.  But to see the progress that Kentucky has made, the investments, the hard work of community health organizations, social workers, faith-based organizations, is really and truly inspiring.

And today, with the HHS grants, some $400 million nationwide, we wanted to make sure the people of Eastern Kentucky knew that nearly $10 million will be going on top of the more than $100 million that the nation has invested in the commonwealth’s efforts to combat opioid abuse and drug addiction.

And I must tell you it is truly inspiring, Governor, to see.  We celebrate the beginning of progress nationally of a 5 percent reduction in opioid overdoses, but to see Kentucky reduce opioid overdoes by 15 percent is a credit to your communities, to the leadership that you and the state government have provided to law enforcement efforts, to healthcare efforts.

I just wanted to congratulate you and thank you but also to make it clear that our administration is going to continue to stand strongly with you, with the people of Kentucky, as we drive this scourge of drug abuse and addiction out of our communities, across this state and across this nation.  And I thank the Governor.

GOVERNOR BEVIN:  Thank you.  I’ll simply say this: I want to thank you all for being here to cover this.  Please do focus on the true message here, which is that there is hope and that hope comes from within.  It’s rising up out of these communities.

The men and women behind me and the 150 others that are here from all over the country serving us, providing healthcare to our indigent population, this is such a gift.  It’s a true blessing for people in ways that words can’t really articulate.

And I’m just grateful to you, representing the White House as the Vice President of this country, to take time out of your schedule to be here with us.  Just personally, I appreciate it. Professionally, politically, at every level, your presence here is powerful.  And, Secretary Azar, same to you.

Again, I’ve known these two guys as friends and as colleagues of various sorts.  But for them to be here in their professional capacity, two of the most powerful people in this country as it relates to how we address healthcare needs, to have them here in Manchester, here at Eastern Kentucky University campus, here in Clay County, is just awesome.

And the lion of Eastern Kentucky, Hal Rogers — I mean, he doesn’t need any, you know, introduction.  This is a guy who, none of this would be possible without you.  So, I’m just grateful to you as well.

And thank you for covering this.  And encourage — just tell people that there is hope and that the tide is turning.  We have a lot yet to do, but good things are coming.  We’re just getting started.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  It’s true.  Questions?

Q    For the people behind you, you come mostly from other states.  What are you seeing a lot of in Clay County?

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, I’d love to have them answer that, but let me say we believe — and the Governor was very adamant about the IRT program staying here in Kentucky.  And to have these men and women, healthcare professionals, in our armed forces coming in from all over the country and focusing on providing basic healthcare services to people, we believe has contributed to progress that we’ve made in drug abuse and addiction.  But I’d love to wave one of these folks up.  Can you tell us — tell us what you’re seeing in the progress?

PARTICIPANT:  Of course.  Of course, sir.  The people have been very welcoming and appreciative of the services.  And it represents the military in a positive light, and I really appreciate that.  And the state and the community here are very supportive of us and what we’re trying to do here, so.

GOVERNOR BEVIN:  And where is your home state?

Q    Pennsylvania.

GOVERNOR BEVIN:  Pennsylvania.  Awesome.  Well, from, you know, the Keystone State to the Bluegrass State, thank you for coming on down.  I appreciate it.  I would just tell you personally, I’m a guy — I’m a kid who grew up in a home, and we never had any healthcare coverage.  We were well below the poverty level.  We didn’t have access to the kind of things being provided here.

And just for me personally, I know what it’s like for folks like this.  I really do.  We never had any healthcare coverage until I was an active-duty Army officer.  And the first time I got eyeglasses, when I was 13 years old, I was — I had -3.5 diopters in each eye, which anybody in (inaudible) is not good.  And I was 13 years old.  It does explain some of the troubles I had in Little League.

But the — but all that to say, what the impact is in a community like this, where people don’t have the money, they don’t have the access, they don’t have the insurance necessarily to be able to — or even necessarily, normally, the feeling that they could go into a doctor’s office.  But here, these are men and women who are like them.

And I’ll tell you, if there’s anything people in Eastern Kentucky know and love and respect, it’s our military.  And so, we’re grateful to you.  And you all are this magical bond that kind of connects people to services they need.  So thank you.  Truly appreciate it.

PARTICIPANT:  This is also used as a recruiting tool, possibly, to get the Army numbers and recruiting up.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  I think it’s a great point.  I can’t help but believe that families in Eastern Kentucky who are working with, are obtaining services from these men and women, might well have young people take a fresh look at military service.

But I have to tell you this is an innovative program.  IRT takes place all over the country.  And our soldiers have to train.  They have to train to be ready for when they deploy.  And the IRT program is an innovative program that says, let’s meet the needs in our underserved communities around the country for healthcare and train our military at the same time.

And we think it not only contributes to readiness, but I expect it also does contribute to recruitment, as people see the caliber of the men and women who are serving.

Anybody else?

GOVERNOR BEVIN:  Outstanding.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Good.

PARTICIPANT:  Thank you all.

END