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Gov. Beshear: Kentucky Counterdrug Program Helps Save 28.9 Million People from Fentanyl Overdose

Partners work to destroy supply of illicit drugs in the commonwealth; Governor signs fiscal year 2024 counterdrug activities plan

                                        beshear

FRANKFORT, Ky. (May 11, 2023) – Gov. Andy Beshear joined representatives of Kentucky’s Counterdrug Program to praise them for supporting the seizure of 142 pounds of fentanyl over seven months that could have caused almost certain death for more than 28.9 million people.

The Governor then moved to continue the team’s work of disrupting the supply of illicit drugs in the commonwealth by signing the fiscal year 2024 State Drug Interdiction and Counterdrug Activities Plan. Support is provided to multiple state, local and federal agencies in the plan’s team, including Kentucky State Police (KSP), Kentucky National Guard, Appalachian High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, Homeland Security Investigations and Drug Enforcement Agency.

From Oct. 1, 2022, to May 1, 2023, the team also supported law enforcement in the seizure of 88,253 fentanyl pills, which is a significant increase from the 2022 fiscal year, when 5,100 fentanyl pills were seized. In 2023, the team also supported the seizure of 432 pounds of methamphetamine, 179 pounds of cocaine and 5.8 pounds of heroin.

“This team is out there on the front lines in our communities, taking drugs off the streets and saving lives. I am proud to support them each and every day for their lifesaving work,” Gov. Beshear said. “I also commend our Kentucky State Police officers who work with multiple agencies to remove dangerous drugs from our communities. One of those is the Kentucky National Guard, which is instrumental in supporting the counterdrug program here in Kentucky as well as supporting local law enforcement on our Southwest Border.”

The Governor added that in April, the Kentucky Counterdrug Program supported the disposal of 14,500 pounds of unneeded medication as part of the statewide Drug Takeback Day.

The Counterdrug Program is federally funded through the Secretary of Defense to states whose Governor submits a Drug Interdiction and Counterdrug Activities Plan.

The Governor said today’s news follows last month’s positive announcement that drug overdose deaths declined in 2022 by 5% compared with 2021, marking the first decline since 2018.

KSP Commissioner Phillip Burnett Jr. added that the federal Drug Enforcement Agency recently released a staggering statistic: Fentanyl is involved in more deaths of Americans under 50 than any cause of death, including heart disease, cancer, homicide, suicide or other accidents. Just 2 milligrams of fentanyl can cause sudden death. Statewide last year, KSP, local and federal partners seized 11,700 grams of fentanyl.

“Not only is fentanyl a danger to our fellow citizens, but it is a threat to our fellow law enforcement officers, their K-9 counterparts and other first responders,” Commissioner Burnett said. “That is why we are working to keep fentanyl off our streets as well as having all our troopers and officers carry naloxone, a medication designed to reverse an opioid overdose rapidly.”

Last year, KSP also seized 18,600 grams of methamphetamine – and since 2018, their efforts accounted for 1,612 drug seizures along the Interstate Highway 75 corridor.

The Kentucky National Guard plays a key role in defeating the demand and destroying the supply of illicit drugs in the commonwealth by providing support to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. As part of the Kentucky Counterdrug Program, the National Guard provides personnel, assets and capabilities as part of their unique military support.

The Kentucky National Guard also supports Customs Border Patrol along the Southwest Border. Last year, the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade provided operational detection and monitoring support and was in command of Task Force Legion, which included 2,500 National Guardsmen mobilized in a Title 10 federal status from 16 states and territories. Currently, 125 Kentucky National Guardsmen are deployed to the border.

“I am incredibly proud of the men and women who serve in the Kentucky National Guard, especially those who support the Counterdrug Program here in Kentucky. They work alongside local law enforcement and play a key role in defeating the demand and destroying the supply of illicit drugs in our commonwealth,” Brig. Gen. Brian Wertzler said.

In March, Gov. Beshear announced that Kentucky is also leading the way in providing treatment services to Kentuckians through the state’s Treatment Access Program, which allows those without health insurance to enter residential treatment, and by creating Recovery Ready Communities, expanding health care coverage and increasing treatment beds.

The state has also increased the number of treatment beds by 50% since the Governor took office in 2019. The administration is also in the process of seeking support and oversight of mobile crisis intervention service providers across the state, which further supports those facing addiction as well as those in need of suicide and crisis intervention.

This year, the Governor also signed legislation supporting recovery housing by setting requirements for certification, operation and oversight of these residences and legislation that ensures direct payments from health insurance to the facilities providing care.

Last year, Gov. Beshear announced a new searchable website to help people in recovery find housing, FindRecoveryHousingNowKY.org. There are currently 185 houses listed on the site.

Under the Governor’s leadership, more than $80.6 million is expected to be awarded by the state’s Office of Drug Control Policy to help support addiction treatment and prevention efforts across the commonwealth.

The Governor has continued to fight the state’s drug epidemic from his time as attorney general, when he led the nation in the number of individual opioid lawsuits filed by an attorney general.

He brought a total of nine lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies for allegedly flooding Kentucky communities with addictive prescription drugs. The lawsuit defendants include: Endo Pharmaceuticals; McKesson Corp.; Cardinal Health; AmerisourceBergen; Janssen Pharmaceuticals; Walgreens; Mallinckrodt; Teva Pharmaceuticals and Insys Therapeutics. Now, Gov. Beshear has made sure the hundreds of millions of dollars in settlement funds go to treatment and the communities impacted.

Treatment Resources 
Call the KY Help Call Center at 833-8KY-HELP (833-859-4357) to speak one-on-one with a specialist who can connect Kentuckians to treatment. Visit findhelpnowky.org to find information about available space in treatment programs and providers based on location, facility type and category of treatment needed.

Visit the KSP website to find one of KSP’s 16 posts where those suffering from addiction can be paired with a local officer who will assist with locating an appropriate treatment program. The Angel Initiative is completely voluntary, and individuals will not be arrested or charged with any violations if they agree to participate in treatment.

For a video from Gov. Beshear on available treatment and resources, and the importance of knowing how to respond to an overdose, click here.

House Bill 115
To further support law enforcement, on Thursday, the Governor ceremonially signed House Bill 115, sponsored by Rep. Bill Wesley of Ravenna, which adds the definition of “electronic detection dog” and “police dog” and adds them to the statute for assault on a service animal which is a Class D felony.

In 2021, KSP added the agency’s first electronic storage device detection K-9 and the second ESD K-9 was added in August 2022. The Governor was joined by Sgt. Leslie Strong and electronic detection K-9 May. Detective John Sims and K-9 Cam were out of town working today.

The Governor said May and Cam are among only 85 electronic storage device K-9s in the country. They work with police agencies and Internet Crimes Against Children task forces to assist with locating hidden electronic storage devices such as hard drives, USB drives and cell phones that may contain child sexual abuse material or other criminal activity. They assist with search warrants locating key pieces of electronic evidence.

Sadly, of the eight law enforcement K-9s shot or stabbed to death in the U.S. so far this year, two were in service to Kentucky law enforcement agencies.

“This is very much needed legislation, and I am proud to sign it today,” Gov. Beshear said. “Thank you to Sgt. Strong, May and Detective Sims and Cam for helping to protect our children and keep our street safe.”

“Over the past few years, we’ve been working with local law enforcement and our K-9 units and this one is very dear to me because it protects our children,” said Rep. Wesley. “We only have two dogs in the state of Kentucky that specialize in this. I am grateful for the service and the work that they do.”

“I was studying for the Sergeant’s exam when I noticed in the definition of service animal, our electronic detection K-9s weren’t included in that,” said Sgt. Leslie Strong. “These dogs protect our most vulnerable citizens of the commonwealth, which are our children. Personally, I am a little biased, but we I think we need as many of these dogs as we can get because they do very important work.”

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