Overdose deaths down statewide and in Jefferson County

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky saw a statewide decline in overdose deaths in 2018, a report released last week shows.

The report revealed that 233 fewer people died from overdoses in 2018, compared to 2017's record high 1,566 deaths. It was a 15% decline.

The county with the biggest decrease was Jefferson County, where 89 fewer deaths occurred in 2018.

"The amount of Narcan we've been able to have available in Louisville and Jefferson County — that's made a big difference in saving lives," said Wendy Morris with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

Narcan, which is used to reverse an overdose, has played the biggest factor in decreasing the death toll from overdoses. But while it's saving lives, it's not helping cut back on overdoses.

"We average about 12-15 administrations a month," said Deputy Chief Todd Early with Buechel EMS. "...that is just for opiate overdoses. We respond to probably 30, 35 overdose scenarios a month."

Clearly, Buechel EMS is still receiving a high volume of overdose calls every month, and that's just in one part of Jefferson County.

The Narcan can also be a financial strain for some departments, as the price has increased by nearly $70 over the last several years, Early said.

Preventing the drug and opiate use to begin with is a big key in decreasing the number of overdoses, rather than only the overdose deaths.

"It's important that we find a way to have our approach to prevention, treatment and recovery be very person-centered so that we can know there story and help them find their way to recovery," Morris said.

Early added that Narcan can't be used as a lifeline to abuse opiates.

"The trick is, after that, making sure these folks get good health care and follow up with treatment options and not just repeat the use of Narcan over and over again," he said.

Kentucky officials hope to continue the downward trend in overdose deaths and encourage those struggling with addiction to reach out to findhelpnowky.org.

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