Kentucky hopes to make progress within national opioid crisis

Published: Feb. 12, 2023 at 9:56 PM EST
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - In 2021, 2,250 Kentuckians died from a drug overdose, that’s a 14.5% increase from 2020.

Fentanyl was found in more than 72% of those deaths, according to a report by the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy.

White House Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Dr. Rahul Gupta is a physician from West Virginia, the state that had the highest rate of overdose deaths in the country.

In 2020, Kentucky had the second highest rate for overdose deaths.

Dr. Gupta said, one way to stop these numbers from growing is to get treatment services into jails and prisons.

“We know when that happens, death goes down significantly and tremendously,” Dr. Gupta said.

He said upon release, they see people continue treatment and get employed, which is a part of a larger effort to ensure everyone gets a chance at treatment across the country.

First, he said they need to crack down on people who are trafficking drugs. He said often times, these people use loopholes and then take advantage of those who are vulnerable.

Dr. Gupta said he recently met with Kentucky officials in Washington, D.C. to talk about ways to prevent these overdose tragedies from happening as often as they do.

“You have some of the leaders who are actually looking to figure out how to take evidence and use it to save lives.” Dr. Gupta said. “I think having Naloxone or Narcan, available at any and every place, literally treating it like a deliberator or smoke alarm, is a good strategy.”

He said Kentucky is a leader in making these changes.