• May 15 2024

Survivors Union of the Bluegrass Chairperson Invited to Congress, White House

Jeremy Byard 2


Louisville, Ky. (May 15, 2024) - The chairperson of the Survivors Union of the Bluegrass (SUB), a community advisory group comprising people who use drugs and/or people in non-abstinence-based recovery, was recently invited to the nation's capital for the annual NIDA convention and to share his story in front of congress and the White House. He's one of four invited guests.

Jeremy Byard, who has struggled with substance use disorder, mental health challenges, homelessness, and tragic loss, now dedicates his life to helping others in recovery and experiencing from homelessness. He serves as the director of harm reduction services at the Arthur Street Hotel.

"I'm a person that is in remission from opioid use disorder for 10 years now," Byard said.

He was featured in a video story with WDRB about his trip to Washington. Watch it here. »

SUB was formed in early 2023 by a group of researchers in the Substance Use Priority Research Area (SUPRA), but the group can consult with any researcher at UK. It is supported by SUPRA along with the UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS) and Voices of Hope, a local non-profit recovery agency based in Lexington.

“It’s been a great year. We’ve built a tight-knit core group of people who understand where each person is coming from even though our recoveries all look a little bit different,” Byard said of the first year of SUB's work. “And with this opportunity, we’ve created a safe space for members to influence research in a meaningful way. It’s been a wonderful year to all learn from each other.”

As of January 2024, 19 research teams have visited the SUB, shared their work and gathered feedback from the group. More than 70% of the teams specifically asked for the group’s input on project design and research questions.

Substance use research is one of UK’s priority areas because of the significant need in the Commonwealth. Kentucky has the second-highest drug overdose death rate in the U.S., only behind West Virginia, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SUPRA’s mission is to prevent and reduce the burdens of substance use disorders through conducting and translating transdisciplinary and innovative research to inform clinical services, training and public health practice, and transform policy.

“When you can have a better understanding of the nuances around drug use — either the problem severity or the people and their challenges versus just their drug use behaviors — I think it’s a big win for the research community and the members of SUB,” said Byard.

SUB members initially planned to meet virtually every other month but had enough requests from researchers to meet once a month. People who use drugs who want to join the effort can sign up online.

“Our goal is to continue to empower the voices of the people who use drugs or the people who are on non-traditional recovery pathways and to continue to educate the community,” said Byard. “We hope to grow our sphere of influence in ways that will ultimately better the Commonwealth.”

Researchers can sign up to consult with the board hereQuestions can be emailed to Amanda Fallin-Bennett (amanda.fallin@uky.edu).

You can read more about SUB's first year here



The project described was supported by the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences through grant number UL1TR001998.  The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.