opioids

The number of drug overdose deaths in Warren County declined slightly in 2017.

Warren County saw 18 drug overdose deaths in 2017, compared to 19 in 2016.

County Coroner Kevin Kirby said toxicology reports also show an increase in people with methamphetamine in their system. Kirby said while there’s more awareness about the risk of addiction with prescription opioids, that hasn’t dramatically reduced fatal overdoses in Warren County.

Mary Meehan

Imagine living and working somewhere designed to fit a couple hundred people. Now picture that same space crammed with twice that number. Madison County, Kentucky, Jailer Doug Thomas doesn’t have to imagine it. He lives it.

“I’m doing all that I can with what I have to work with, which is not a lot,” he said. “Because we’re a 184 bed facility with almost 400 people.”

According to the Madison County jail task force, roughly 80 percent of the people incarcerated there are jailed on charges that somehow relate to addiction. County Judge Executive Reagan Taylor wants to try a different approach.


Kentucky LRC

A western Kentucky Democrat has pre-filed a bill for the 2018 legislative session to reduce the criminal penalty for drug possession. The legislation would lower the offense for first-degree possession, or personal possession, of a controlled substance from a felony to a misdemeanor.

Representative Gerald Watkins of Paducah hopes the bill will pass in the next legislative session, especially because he’s not running for re-election. The legislation would require those found guilty of drug possession to complete a treatment program and community service. Watkins said now is a good time to propose this bill because the public’s attitude toward drug crimes is changing.

Changing Course: A School Cooperative Aims To Remake Coal Communities

Nov 27, 2017
Benny Becker

Betsy Layne High School serves rural Floyd County in the eastern Kentucky town of Stanville, population 206. Students there produce a video program called “Bobcat Banter” where they usually talk about sports and student life. But early last year “Bobcat Banter” introduced some special guests.

“We’re here with Mr. and Mrs. Gates from the Gates Foundation,” the students said.

The world’s richest man and his partner in life and philanthropy, Melinda Gates, had dropped in for a chat.

Becca Schimmel

A southern Kentucky judge said the cost of incarceration is changing the way Kentucky deals with drug offenders.

Warren Circuit Court Judge Steve Wilson said he’s seen a shift in how Kentucky’s legislators view incarceration for drug crimes. He said legislators are increasingly talking to him and other judges about alternatives to jail. He said the cost of keeping people behind bars has a lot to do with that shifting mindset.

Courtesy White House, Office of the First Lady

At a conference last year on the region’s opioid crisis, journalist Sam Quinones presented a call to action to Northern Kentucky University.

Quinones is author of the influential book on the opioid crisis, “Dreamland,” and a tireless speaker on the topic. At conferences and other events in the Ohio Valley he frequently makes a plea: create an addiction research hub among regional institutions affected by the epidemic.

NKU decided to give it a shot.

“We looked and saw who was doing any kind of research related to health,” Vice Provost for Graduate Education, Research and Outreach Samantha Langley-Turnbaugh said. “We sent an invitation for them to come to campus last December and to start to talking about opioid addiction and the possibility of forming a consortium.”


Ryland Barton

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear has filed a lawsuit against opioid maker Endo Pharmaceuticals for pushing a highly addictive drug on doctors in Kentucky and contributing to the opioid crisis. In 2016, more than 190 Kentuckians overdosed on Opana ER — the extended release version of the pain medication manufactured by Endo.

“Endo put its own profits ahead of public health and patient safety,” Beshear said in a press conference on Monday. “And rather than help limit the opioid epidemic by reporting potential diversion through illicit prescribing, as it is obligated to do on under federal and state law, Endo looked the other way.”

Mary Meehan

When a Madison County jail task force examined overcrowding in their jails, they found that about 80 percent of the inmates were there on drug related charges. This led the county to look at how a public-private partnerships could help fund a new substance abuse treatment center

Judge Executive Reagan Taylor said the county’s jail is overcrowded and building a new one would cost about $50 million. He said a new jail would need to have 800 beds and it would probably be full or overcrowded in about ten years. Taylor said he didn’t want to use taxpayer dollars to build a new jail without looking at what they could do to reduce recidivism.


Mary Meehan

Roxanne Schwartz, of Lebanon, New Jersey, told a story to the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis Wednesday that could easily resonate with parents in the Ohio Valley.

Her two sons were denied by insurance companies when seeking treatment for conditions related to opioid use disorder.

“We have spent over $300,000 in the last seven years,” she said. “We borrowed against our home, cashed out our college savings accounts and withdrew money from our retirement fund.”

Courtesy White House, Office of the First Lady

President Donald Trump outlined on Thursday his long-awaited plan to address the opioid crisis as a national public health emergency. Part of that plan was based on experiences in the Ohio Valley region.

In an address at the White House Thursday both President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump mentioned efforts in the Ohio Valley region to help infants affected by the crisis.

Trump said that a hospital nursery in West Virginia treats one in every five babies for symptoms of addiction.

Two Campbellsville residents have been arrested for obtaining and distributing prescription drugs under false pretenses.  Investigators say the pair illegally distributed more than a thousand Suboxone tablets. 

Steve Davis, Inspector General for the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, says Suboxone is used to wean addicts off of opiates, but it still has addictive qualities.

"It is itself an opiate, but it's a partial antagonist, which means it doesn't have the full effect that a full-fledged opiate would have," Davis told WKU Public Radio.  "One of the primary differences is that it doesn't cause respiratory distress when it's over-utilized."

With the country in the throes of an epidemic, communities across the nation are being forced to confront the harrowing, and often fatal, effects of opioid abuse. But solutions — such as creating intervention programs in Ohio, providing access to treatment in Alabama, or investing in prevention initiatives in Missouri — cost money.

The president of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce says opioid abuse is taking a toll on the state’s economic growth and development. 

David Adkisson says many people looking for work can’t pass a drug test, and many of those who do have jobs are leaving the workforce because of untreated or under-treated addictions.  That has contributed to a low workforce participation rate, according to Adkisson.

"If we were simply at the national average, there would be 165,000 more workers in the Kentucky economy than there are today," stated Adkisson.  "Opioid addiction is one of the contributing factors to that, but it's a significant factor."

public domain

Four Kentuckians die of drug overdoses every day, according to the state Office of Drug Control Policy. Most of those deaths are due to opioids, chief among them fentanyl, a powerful synthetic drug that has properties similar to heroin.

During a daylong update Wednesday on the state of Kentucky’s opioid epidemic, lawmakers heard from doctors, counselors and those in recovery about efforts to combat drug addiction.

The attorneys general of 41 U.S. states said Tuesday that they're banding together to investigate the makers and distributors of powerful opioid painkillers that have, over the past decade, led to a spike in opiate addictions and overdose deaths.

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