By MICHAEL L. JONES | October 1, 2018 9:00 am
Kim Moore will celebrate a prodigious anniversary on Oct. 5. The day marks 20 years without drugs or alcohol for the mother of four, who spent much of the 1990s with a crack addiction bad enough that her children had to live with other relatives at one point.
After getting sober in 1998, Moore ran a halfway house for six years before moving into a workforce development job with Louisville Metro Government. Since then, she also has watched as the crack epidemic gave way to the opioid crisis.
Moore’s life experience gives her a unique insight into the nation’s substance abuse crisis that she is using to help and educate others, including two local state representatives seeking to tackle the opioid crisis in their backyards.
In addition to her day job, Moore is a consultant for CleanState, a medically assisted addiction treatment center located on Gray Street, and she sits on the board of ChooseWell, a nonprofit that provides medical services for women with substance abuse issues and children under the age of 3.
“It’s been a journey, so when I watch the opioid crisis and how it unfolds — and how kids are being affected — I’m really invested from a personal standpoint,” she said. “Twenty years ago, it really was a village. Everybody was looking out for everyone else’s kids. I think we’re in so much trouble now because people have become so desensitized to violence and drugs that they are saying, ‘Not my issue. Not my business.’ I think it’s still my issue. It’s still my business, and I’m going to keep talking about it.”
Moore grew up in West Virginia and moved to Louisville in 1981 for a short stint in college. Her father, a retired coal miner and business owner, died in 1989. Moore missed her flight home and never made it to his funeral.
“That’s a lot of guilt and shame when your dad’s been your biggest cheerleader,” Moore said. “I’d also been around people that sold drugs for some fast money. I started selling and then using myself. I tried cocaine in 1991 — I didn’t like it. I tried it in 1993 — I didn’t like it. I tried it in 1995 and lost my mind.”
After a few false starts, Moore was able to get past her addiction after receiving private medical treatment and then spending 16 months in a residential program at the Beacon House in Old Louisville. From 2006 to 2012, Moore managed a halfway house where she first noticed the increased popularity of heroin.
“In 2012, I spent my Easter in the halfway house because I got a call from a parole officer. She thought there were drugs in the house. I met her there, and we found a shoebox full of heroin and syringes,” Moore said. “But I didn’t really see the enormous impact heroin was having until 2015. That’s when I started to know people whose kids were dying.”
According to the 2017 Overdose Fatality Report from the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, Jefferson County had the most overdose deaths of any county in the state with 426, up from 364 in 2016.
Moore said those numbers will keep rising if local residents can’t see past the stereotypes surrounding addiction and address the systemic problems that are leading people to become drug dealers and/or users.
Among the most counterproductive stereotypes, Moore said, is the idea that more policing in African-American communities — particularly targeting young black men — will help solve this crisis.
This is an idea that drove drug policy in the crack era, she said, because that drug was associated with poor, urban African-American communities.
In her experience, Moore said, there are two kinds of drug dealers — those who get into trafficking so they can afford an affluent lifestyle and those who are selling small amounts simply to put food on the table.
The public rarely differentiates between the two, Moore said, which can make the trafficking problem worse because many disadvantaged youths become trapped in a cycle of criminality. An arrest for a small amount of an illegal substance can shackle them with a criminal record.
Rather than interdiction, Moore believes public policy should be focused on bringing more drug treatment and education to Louisville’s predominantly white neighborhoods because they are being disproportionately affected by the opioid crisis.
That is not to say that minorities are not also being affected by the opioid crisis. However, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 918 of the state’s 989 overdose victims in 2016 were white, non-Hispanics.
Insider also reported previously that the ZIP codes with highest overdose rates in 2017 were in the majority-white south Louisville, and that more than 90 percent of people participating in Louisville’s syringe exchange program, which aims to prevent the spread of diseases including HIV and hepatitis C, are white.
Despite these facts, there is a saturation of sober living facilities located in the predominantly African-American West End.
“When you take a girl from U.S. 42 and put her on 44th and Broadway, she has to walk past four dope houses to get to the bus stop. That is a recipe for disaster,” Moore said. “I really believe some of these people are dying because they’ve been taken out of their element.”
In August, Insider obtained a list of more than 40 sober living facilities from Erin Henle of the Beacon House that showed about half of them were in west Louisville. Residents in Shawnee and Russell are opposing the opening of more of facilities in their communities because of this and the fact that many of the houses already there lack the staff to properly monitor their residents.
Louisville Metro has created a Sober Housing Task Force, which is drafting an ordinance as part of a two-year plan to deal with the opioid crisis. But Moore said government alone can’t deal with the opioid crisis. This is a problem that affects families, she said, and Louisville residents need to start thinking like one.
“The days of being able to say ‘those people’ are gone because all of us are affected by this,” she said. “People out in St. Matthews and other parts of the city must embrace sober living houses in their communities because they are losing the most kids. You are not seeing an influx of young black kids dying of heroin. You are seeing an influx of young white kids, 20 to 30.”
Some people are listening. State Representatives McKenzie Cantrell, D-38, and Joni Jenkins, D-44, founded the South Louisville Opioid Task Force after learning that their districts had the most accidental overdoses in the city in 2017.
The two lawmakers met Moore at a women’s leadership conference in Asheville, N.C., late last year, and she has become a resource for them when dealing with substance abuse issues.
“At first we were just excited to run into someone from our hometown in another city,” Cantrell said. “But once we got to know Kim, her background represented things we’re already thinking about ourselves. She is a very dynamic figure, and I get together with her regularly to talk.”
At a meeting on Sept. 18, the task force heard presentations about the promise and problems of sober living from Community Health Administrator Dr. Wayne Crabtree and representatives from the Beacon House.
Cantrell said the conversations with Moore have her and Jenkins contemplating legislation to regulate sober living facilities in the state.
“The problem is hard to get at because there are so many facets to it,” Cantrell said. “We don’t want to over-regulate and put some of the good places out of business, but we need some basic guidelines to make sure these facilities are helping people.”
Moore hopes to assist in the development of state and local regulations that surround substance abuse issues, and soon, she will have a federal audience, too.
In October, Moore’s life will be explored in a presentation at the Marine base in Quantico, Va., home of the FBI Academy. The talk is part of a Domestic Violence Month program. Moore said domestic violence and drug addiction go hand in hand because female addicts find it particularly hard to leave abusive relationships.
Moore said she does not mind sharing the darker moments of her life if it will help someone else enter the light.Kim Moore draws on her history of addiction & Substance abuse to help save others Comment; It’s great to see folks giving it back!
It’s always great to see folks giving it back!