A new report issued by the Commonwealth of Kentucky on Monday showed that 2,250 people died in the state from drug overdoses in 2021, a 14.5% increase in the number from 2020.
Across the country, more than 107,000 overdose deaths were reported between December 2020 and December 2021.
Kenton County saw a total of 91 drug overdose deaths last year, including 73 involving fentanyl (third-highest in the state) and 24 involving methamphetamine (fifth-highest in the state).
Boone County saw 44 overdose deaths last year while Campbell Co. recorded 31.
According to cases autopsied by Kentucky’s Office of the State Medical Examiner and toxicology reports submitted by Kentucky coroners, the rise in the death toll was driven largely by an increased use in fentanyl which accounts for approximately 70% of all overdose deaths for the year.
Additionally, the increase in overdose deaths was worsened by the widespread availability of potent inexpensive methamphetamine, the state report said.
“Here in the commonwealth, we have been fighting a long battle against the opioid epidemic. This public health crisis has torn families apart and taken the lives of far too many Kentuckians, far too soon,” Gov. Andy Beshear said. “Every day we must work together to fund recovery programs and treatment options so that we can continue to address this scourge and get our people the help they need.”
The 2021 Overdose Fatality Report, released by the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet and the Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP), compiled data from the Office of the State Medical Examiner, the Kentucky Injury Prevention & Research Center and the Kentucky Office of Vital Statistics.
“The drug epidemic is not a Kentucky issue or political issue, but a nationwide issue that is affecting everyone and every state,” said ODCP Executive Director Van Ingram. “Our focus over this next year will be on increasing access to clinical care for those suffering from an addiction and offering more harm reduction measures.”
Since his appointment as Secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, Kerry Harvey has made it clear that fighting the drug epidemic while reducing the stigma around it is a top priority.
“The Justice and Public Safety Cabinet has been and remains committed to those struggling with addiction and their families,” said Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary Kerry Harvey. “The safety of all Kentuckians is one of the issues at the heart of this problem. We are working to provide help to all those affected by drug addiction, especially those who are seeking to go into recovery.”
On Monday, the governor announced that Kentucky is working to establish counties as “Recovery Ready Communities” in an effort to help individuals fighting an addiction receive critical resources at no cost, and work to reduce the ongoing public health crisis that is sweeping across the nation.
This is in response to Gov. Beshear signing House Bill 7 last year, which ensures communities are recovery-ready through the availability of high quality recovery programs offered within their area.
HB 7 created the Advisory Council for Recovery Ready Communities within ODCP, who is partnering with Volunteers of America to launch a Recovery Ready Community Certification Program for cities and counties to apply for upon offering transportation, support groups, recovering meetings and employment services at no cost to residents currently seeking treatment for a drug or alcohol addiction.
In April, Gov. Beshear and ODCP announced $4.9 million in grants to offer comprehensive treatment and recovery services to pregnant women and parents. This funding aims to help parents recover from opioid addiction, while also addressing Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, a condition caused by an infant going through drug withdrawal.
“The new funding and bipartisan actions will not only allow the Commonwealth of Kentucky to continue the fight against the opioid epidemic, but will also increase the chances of us winning,” Gov. Beshear said. “We are not only committed to helping those struggling with addiction and recovery; we are committed to helping their families as well.”
By the end of this year, ODCP estimates it will have awarded more than $69 million in grant funding to programs across the state that provide treatment services and recovery programs, as well as employment and job training in the past three years.