Only on Fox: The cost of meth - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Only on Fox: The cost of meth

Taxpayers might be surprised to hear they're helping foot the bill for the costs of increasing meth busts.  When the victims and users are taken to the hospital, sometimes there aren't enough specialty beds to treat those who need medical care.

There are only ten burn victim hospital beds in the entire state of Kentucky, five in Louisville and five in Lexington.  On some occasions during the past few months, they have been overwhelmed with meth victims.

"We have seen it in Jefferson County that the meth labs are increasing so that increases your meth injuries and fatalities as well," said Theresa Baker, R.N., with University Hospital.

Its something you don't see very often, an empty room in the burn unit at University Hospital. There are fewer injuries that are more horrific, requiring costly specialized treatment.

"With meth related burns you have a lot of people who are non-insured so that is a drain on the health care system which is then passed on to the taxpayer as well," said Baker.

Louisville recorded its first meth fatality this past summer when an Okolona man died from burns.  Despite the dangers Louisville police continue to see more meth labs. Last year there were 68 meth busts in the city.  So far this year there have already been 73.

"That should tell you how powerful and addictive this drug is, 99% of meth labs in this country and here are what we call user labs, they're producing enough meth to use themselves and maybe sell or give to a friend but they're using it and that tells you have powerful the drug is," said Sgt. Stan Salyards, a Metro Narcotics Detective.

Meth victims have to stay in the hospital longer, their injuries are more critical and they have more complications.  Victims have more health problems related to heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, liver problems because of the chemicals they put into their bodies.

Baker says a study at University Hospital showed that non-meth burn victims stay in the hospital an average of 20 days at a cost of $75,000 per patient.  For the meth burn victim, its a 30 day stay at $230,000 a patient.

"You can see your costs are very high because your patients are sicker, they're in ICU longer, they're on a ventilator longer, they have extensive wounds that do not heal, and their skin grafts do not take," said Baker.

Baker says the only solution to the problem is education, getting the word out on the horrible consequences of meth use.  An uphill battle for now as meth use continue to rise.

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