Kentucky AG launches Operation Fight Fentanyl at Covington roundtable

Mark Payne
Mark Payne
Mark Payne is the government and politics reporter for LINK nky. Email him at [email protected]

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Attorney General Daniel Cameron kicked off Operation Fight Fentanyl at a roundtable in Covington on Wednesday. 

Cameron’s new initiative seeks to combat the epidemic in Kentucky, which has seen a 50% increase in overdose deaths between 2019 and 2020, according to a 2021 National Center for Health Statistics report. 

At times, Cameron has worked on labeling the synthetic opioid a “weapon of mass destruction,” and he also focused on national issues at the southern border and China as reasons for the opioid and fentanyl epidemic in Kentucky.

Speaking at the Kenton County Government Center with leaders from across NKY, Cameron said that fentanyl is dangerous in even small amounts and is, in some cases, undetectable. 

“As part of this new initiative, our office will be meeting Kentuckians across the commonwealth to hear about how they’ve been impacted by this deadly drug,” Cameron said. 

The announcement of the new initiative comes on the heels of the state announcing that it’s set to get $842 million in settlement from the opioid abatement settlement program.  

While that settlement is substantial, it’s just a drop in the bucket of what is needed compared to the overall scope of the problem, according to Bryan Hubbard, chair and executive director of the Kentucky Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission, speaking at a Health Services committee meeting in January. 

“When we consider the fact that Purdue pharma cleared $100 million a month for years on the sale of Oxycontin,” Hubbard said. “This state is going to receive over 18 years what that company, which created this problem, cleared in just a little over eight months.” 

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Hubbard also presented data based on the National Center for Health Statistics report at the roundtable, showing that overdose deaths in the United States increased 31% from 2019 to 2020, with 91,799 Americans succumbing to the illness. 

Kentucky also had an age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths in 2020 at 49.2 per 100,000 people — only second to West Virginia. 

Further, in Kentucky, deaths increased by more than 50 percent in that same timeframe. They went from 1,380 in 2019 to 2,083 in 2020. 

Hubbard also noticed that fentanyl used to just impact white communities, but it’s also now impacting black communities. 

While the drug is impacting both communities, Shreeta Waldon, executive director of the Kentucky Harm Reduction Coalition, said that there are differences when it comes to healthcare for the two communities. 

She said that in white communities, people go into recovery and get the care they need. 

“The black communities are not engaged because our state says we cannot provide our safety supplies to that community,” Waldon said. 

Another area that Waldon wants to focus on is solving the underlying problem of trauma and addressing other needs, such as housing, healthcare, and other community needs, and not just chasing the “bad guy.” 

“We can’t focus on just the criminalization,” Waldon said. 

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