Kentucky Office of Drug Control says drug overdoses at record high

09/05/2018 07:29 PM

FRANKFORT- As the number of overdose deaths in Kentucky continue to rise the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy is using all available funds to help curb the epidemic.

1,565 Kentuckians died from overdoses in 2017, the highest number on record. 52 percent of those overdoses are from Fentanyl.

“That’s almost five people everyday in this commonwealth. In our nation, it’s nearly 200 people everyday. 72,000 Americans lost their lives last year in a totally preventable death.” said Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy Executive Director Van Ingram.

The Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy testified in front of the Tobacco Settlement Agreement Fund Oversight Committee Wednesday—informing lawmakers what is being done with the tobacco settlement money. Much of the money allocated the past few years has gone toward buying the overdose reversing drug, Narcan.

“The tobacco money is important to us, it has allowed a lot of our local communities to purchase Narcan,” said Ingram. “We’ve had real push with our tobacco settlement fund money that past few years of making sure our police officers and fire fighter out there addressing these drug overdoses have a tool available not just to stop the overdose for the individual who may be suffering, but to address the danger to the first responders as well.”

While the office has been able to provide more treatment and prevention through the tobacco settlement funds—an influx of federal money should be coming in to further their mission. Ingram says the office requested a $31 million grant from the federal government on August 13.

“I belie that will be looked favorably upon. It will allow some prevention efforts as well as a great expansion of substance abuse treatment,” Ingram said.

The General Assembly provided more money to the Office for Drug Control Policy in 2018-2020 biennium budget—including an increase of about $5 million in tobacco settlement funding for the 2019 fiscal year. The increase in funding the office is focusing on preventing someone with a substance abuse addiction from having a relapse.

Lawmakers were curious to hear the position of the office on certain pieces of legislation. Rep. Brandon Reed, R-Hodgenville, asked about HB 428, which passed the House during the 2018 General Assembly session, but failed to make it through the Senate. The bill would have required first responders to take someone overdosing to a facility to be looked after.

“I know there is a cry from the first responders at this point, they are kind of limited in what they can do in that procedure process.” said Rep. Reed.

Ingram said he worked closely with bill sponsor Rep. Kim Moser, R-Taylor Mill, and believes they will be looking back at this issue for the 2019 session.

“It’s complicated and its difficult to figure out the right thing to do is here. But I support the concept. We need to do something, but I’m not sure what that something is.” said Ingram.

With the death toll climbing from opioid overdoses, the medication being left behind is also increasing. Rep. Rick Rand, D-Bedford, says a coroner in his district asked for the General Assembly to create some type of regulations on who can take control and dispose of the prescription medication.

“He suggested that there needs to be some statute that would prescribe that if a coroner is there they would take possession and see that it’s disposed of because he said if its left behind a lot of times family members or friends come over and are looking for that sort of thing.” said Rep. Rand.

Creating some type of process to ensure prescription medications aren’t left around after an overdose death is something Ingram said his office would be in support of creating in 2019 .

Michon Lindstrom

Michon is a producer for Pure Politics. Michon comes to Kentucky from Springfield, Illinois where she served as the statehouse reporter for the NBC affiliate. During her time in the Land of Lincoln she covered the state’s two year budget impasse and the largest school funding overall in Illinois history. Pure Politics airs weeknights at 7 and 11:30 on Spectrum News. Follow Michon on Twitter at @MichonLindstrom or reach her by email at michon.lindstrom@charter.com

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