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Report: Ky. overdose deaths increased 14.5% in 2021 from previous year

More than 2,200 Kentuckians died from drug overdoses in 2021-- a 14.5% increase compared to the year before.
Published: Jun. 13, 2022 at 10:25 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - More than 2,200 Kentuckians died from drug overdoses in 2021-- a 14.5% increase compared to the year before.

Officials blame an increase in fentanyl for this spike in deaths. The report said 70% of all overdose deaths were linked to fentanyl. Opioids were connected to 90%.

With the exception of an isolated reduction in 2018, the yearly numbers of overdose deaths have grown year after year in Kentucky residents. In 2020, there was an almost 50% spike compared to 2019. Fayette and Madison counties were in the top five for overdose deaths involving fentanyl.

This is also the case for overdoses involving meth.

The 35–44-year age range had the highest death rate, which has been the trend since at least 2019.

Clinical director at Roaring Brook Recovery Dave Thomas said more education on the issue could help with the ongoing problem.

“You know, substance use is still somewhat of a taboo subject. I know they’re doing a better job of it in schools, but I really think there needs to be more education programs designed to help educate the general public,” Thomas said.

Kentucky’s Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP) has a goal this year to increase access to clinical care and to offer transitional housing and jobs during the recovery process.

“Fentanyl is 10 times more powerful than heroin. The one pound of fentanyl does the same-- the same result logistically as heroin,” said Van Ingram with the ODCP.

According to the report, Estill County had the most deaths per capita and is followed by Gallatin County.

“Despite our best efforts, it’s continuing to get worse. And I think that means as a Commonwealth we have to really step up and become more involved at every level,” Thomas said.

Governor Andy Beshear announced on Monday that Kentucky is working to establish counties as “recovery ready communities” in an effort to help people fighting an addiction receive critical resources.

“This public health crisis has torn families apart and taken the lives of far too many Kentuckians, far too soon,” Gov. Beshear said.

In a tweet on Monday, Attorney General Daniel Cameron said his office plans to continue to hold companies responsible for the crisis accountable.

He also said he will work with the opioid abatement advisory commission, so every available dollar goes toward awareness, treatment and recovery programs.

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