Kentucky reports drop in drug overdose deaths in 2018

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP/WKYT) - Kentucky officials are reporting the first statewide drop in drug overdose deaths since 2013.

A report issued Thursday states 1,333 people died from drug overdoses in 2018, down from a record 1,566 deaths the prior year. The decline follows years of steady increases in the death toll, driven mostly by surges in opioid abuse, heroin and fentanyl.

The report was issued by the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy.

Its executive director, Van Ingram, pointed to education and treatment programs along with other "harm-reduction" initiatives as factors in the lower death toll.

Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Secretary John Tilley said that while the numbers are "trending down," the state still faces "incredible challenges."

"Overdoses and overdose deaths are at the far end of the spectrum," Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Dr. Jeffrey Howard told sister station WKYT. "We need to move further upstream and prevent people from getting addicted to substances in the first place."

The report says the largest drop in fatal overdoses occurred in Jefferson County - Kentucky's most populous county.

Sister station WKYT also talked to Carrie Thayer who is the Director of Development at the Hope Center. She claims the decrease in opioid deaths nationally and here in Kentucky correlates with their own data.

"Actually at intake, we do ask our clients, we ask them what their drug of choice is, what they've been struggling with," said Thayer.

Tayer says the people coming into the center say opioids are not their drug of choice.

Thayer also says recovery is more available and talked about more.

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