Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney
In 2012, Burr Travis started talking to Commonwealth’s Attorney Rob Sanders about the need for a drug-treatment program in the Kenton County court system to help people accused of drug offenses deal with their addiction issues.
Travis — who worked as a criminal defense attorney at the Florence law firm Busald Funk & Zevely for 36 years before retiring in December 2014 — said he recognized the need for the program from his personal experience as criminal defense attorney and his years of work with various drug-addiction agencies in the Northern Kentucky community. This need became even more pronounced after the opiate and heroin epidemic hit the Northern Kentucky region.
Travis and Sanders spent three years putting together the program, which required approval and support from the Kentucky Department of Corrections, local judges, the Kenton County Fiscal Court and Jailer, and the agencies that would need to evaluate and treat these criminal defendants.
After Travis retired as a criminal defense attorney in December 2014, he joined the Commonwealth’s Attorney office in January 2015 to run the office’s newly created HEART initiative, which stands for Heroin Expedited Addiction Recovery Treatment. He donates his entire salary as an Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney to the treatment agencies that participate in the program: NorthKey Community Services, Transitions, and Ten-10.
“The goal of the program is to save lives by getting people facing drug possession charges out of jail and into treatment as soon as possible,” Travis said. “We are trying to get them treatment from Day One, when they first enter the criminal justice system, instead of four to five months later, as was done in the past.”
Certified substance abuse counselors evaluate inmates for treatment opportunities, the costs of which are covered by a grant NorthKey received for the initiative or insurance programs like Medicaid or private medical insurance.
If inmates qualify for the program (those also accused of felonies like robbery, burglary, assault, rape, or murder don’t qualify), a Kenton County circuit or district judge can order them to go to treatment when they are released from jail on a secured or unsecured bond.
“We follow that person through the treatment process to verify that they are doing what they are supposed to do. If they don’t, they go back to jail,” Travis said. “Over the last four years, this program has literally saved both lives and many families by helping people overcome their addictions and take their lives in the right direction.”
Travis graduated magna cum laude from the University of Cincinnati in 1973 and Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University in 1977. The Fort Mitchell resident served for nine years on the Kentucky Racing Commission and also served four years on the Horseman’s Benevolent Protective Association.
He currently serves as the Racing Commission’s representative to the Kentucky Health and Welfare Fund, which uses uncashed pari-mutuel tickets to provide funds to people who work on the backside of Kentucky’s horse racing tracks who need financial aid, such as covering their uninsured medical expenses or funeral costs.