Health

The number of Kentuckians who died from overdosing on drugs increased in 2014, according to numbers released Wednesday by the Office of Drug Control Policy.

Kentucky overdose deaths increased from 1,010 in 2013 to 1,087 in 2014.

Drug control policy officials said the total number of overdose deaths had leveled off in 2013 and that last year’s increase reflected the persistent challenge of reining in substance abuse.

“I am discouraged that overdose deaths increased in 2014 over 2013 and I think this demonstrates the pervasive grip and cyclical nature of addiction,” said Van Ingram, executive director of the state’s Office of Drug Control Policy.

“Fortunately, we’ve recently put in place some changes that we hope will bring the number of deaths back down in 2015.”

During this year’s General Assembly, lawmakers passed laws that expand the use of a heroin overdose-reversing drug called naloxone and also gave some legal immunity to those who report overdoses.

But the bill’s so-called Good Samaritan provision has been criticized by at least one Kentucky prosecutor, Kenton commonwealth’s attorney Rob Sanders, who says the new law does nothing to get addicts off the streets. The bill also allowed for the operation of needle exchange programs in local communities.

According to the Office of Drug Control Policy, the number of deaths attributed to heroin overdoses was relatively constant in 2014 compared to 2013.

The largest increase in overdoses occurred in Fayette County—112 deaths in 2014, up from 86 deaths in 2013.

Jefferson County had 204 overdose deaths in 2014, the most of any county.

 

 

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.