Kentucky must continue pursuing solutions to opioid epidemic

Published 4:57 pm Thursday, July 18, 2019


The Advocate-Messenger

A new report indicates Kentucky is making some progress in reducing overdose deaths, but there is still much work to do.

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There were 233 fewer drug fatalities in the commonwealth during 2018 than in 2017, according to a report for the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy.

The report released Thursday shows the first decline in overdose deaths since 2013 — down from the record high of 1,566 in 2017 to 1,333 in 2018.

The drop is also the largest decline in deaths in a decade.

Some other key findings from the report, according to a press release issued Thursday:

• Fentanyl and fentanyl analogues were the most lethal drug in 2018, contributing to 786 overdose deaths.

• There was an increase in deaths attributed to methamphetamine.

• Deaths from other controlled substances such as heroin, alprazolam and gabapentin all declined in 2018. 

This decline is worth celebrating. It means the efforts being made at all levels in our state and our communities are working.

Those efforts include expanding access to treatment, providing more treatment options and aftercare programs for those incarcerated with substance abuse disorders, establishing more peer-support programs in communities, raising awareness and education about addiction and treatment, harm-reduction programs and more.

In Boyle County, we’re lucky to have programs like the Agency for Substance Abuse Policy, the Hope Network, Shepherd’s House and Isaiah House. And we’re fortunate to have a jail that’s adding new services to help incarcerated addicts enter recovery, including plans to partner with a new sober-living home opening soon. We have support for changing the story on drug addiction from every social corner and every political faction in Boyle County.

While there’s room for celebration, there are still too many people dying from drug overdoses. There is still much work to be done.

We’ve seen some progress. Now is time to evaluate what is working and what is not.

It is prime time to continue shifting our model for response to the drug epidemic in our state to best meet the needs of our community and to help those who are struggling with drug addiction.

The approach is multi-faceted. It takes those in local and state government, those working in mental health, DCBS, our prisons, our law enforcement, the faith community, concerned families and citizens — everyone — to make a real difference.

Success is worth acknowledging, but it proves we need to continue to press forward in order to find real relief for our communities.

We believe Kentucky is taking the correct steps to address the problem and has proven willing to re-evaluate and adjust where needed. That is why our state has seen more success than others.

That willingness to look at the issue from all angles will be key to continuing this decline in overdose deaths.