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REPORT: Drug overdose deaths remain high in Eastern Kentucky but showing improvements

PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WYMT) - It is no secret there is a drug epidemic in the region and the newest study by the state's Office of Drug Control Policy proves that. However, some counties are showing improvement and police say they will take small victories in such a large scale battle.

It is a cycle many Eastern Kentuckians fall into.

Pike County Deputy Coroner Zeb Hampton says, "They get off the prescription drugs and move on to non-prescription drugs...use them as a recreational drug and it usually ends up with them becoming dead."

A report found the Eastern Kentucky region still struggles with drug abuse, leading the state with five of the top six counties for overdose deaths in 2013.

Pikeville Police Officer Tony Conn says, "It took its roots here, it is going to be hard to eradicate it..but we are working on it."

One county that did show improvement, is Pike County, with 12 fewer overdoses in 2013 than the previous year.

Officer Conn says, "More enforcement, more officers on the streets, and targeting specific groups and areas."

Officials say they are taking a more targeted, proactive approach.

"More of a data, intelligence driven approach of policing. Obviously in this area drug problems are one of the most prevalent problems we have because it affects so many lives adversely," says KSP Post 9 Captain Sean Welch.

Hampton says, "The programs in place to stem it are working, but it is going to take much more than that...you have to get to the source."

Police agree while they are making progress drugs remain a major problem and say it is a battle they are committed to fighting full force.

"I can say I'd like it totally out, zero drugs...but I know that is probably not going to happen, but we are going to make a dent in it and the drug dealers are going to know they've been hit hard," says Officer Conn.

It is something police say they take great pride in and they say statistics like the one out of Pike County is a step in the right direction.

Captain Welch says, "When you start seeing small victories turning into larger victories, that is motivating in itself." He adds, "Another motivator is the fact that we all live out here...we want communities to be safe for our own families, too."

Welch says Post 9 is on track for 2014 to show more positive results, already seizing close to $900,000 worth of illicit drugs.

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