Gov. Beshear: Kentucky Drug Overdose Deaths Decline for First Time in Four Years

Overdose deaths declined by 5% last year, the first decline since 2018

                                      

FRANKFORT, Ky. (April 20, 2023) – Today, Gov. Andy Beshear announced that Kentucky’s drug overdose deaths declined in 2022 by 5% compared with 2021, marking the first decline since 2018.

According to the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center (KIPRC), 2,127 Kentuckians died from a drug overdose in 2022 compared with 2,257 in 2021.

“While we find hope in the decline in drug overdose deaths, this remains a public health crisis that we must continue to work together to address,” said Gov. Beshear. “We have done a lot of work to help Kentuckians fight addiction, but there is more to do and more lives to save. And I promise to be there every step of the way.”

On March 24, the Governor signed two pieces of legislation to support ongoing efforts to help Kentuckians fighting addiction. At that time, Gov. Beshear said, “I am proud that Kentucky has been 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 we have increased the number of treatment beds by 50% during my administration.”

Dana Quesinberry, co-principal investigator for surveillance of the Kentucky Drug Overdose Data to Action (OD2A) program at KIPRC, joined the Governor for today’s announcement.

“I am glad to have good news to share today. Drug overdose deaths in Kentucky have been on the rise for the last four years, with a spike at the start of the world-wide pandemic,” said Quesinberry. “The numbers from 2022 show that prevention efforts are working, and we share this news today to continue to inform prevention interventions as we work together across state and local government to address this public health crisis and save lives.”

KIPRC has been tracking drug overdose-related deaths since 2011. The Office of Drug Control Policy, in partnership with KIPRC, will be releasing the 2022 Kentucky Drug Overdose Report in the coming months. The report will include additional data on the number of drug overdose deaths by county and various demographics.

Fighting the Epidemic
Through partnerships across state government, including with the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, the Beshear administration is diligently working to provide wider and easier access to recovery, to reduce addiction and to prevent reincarceration to offenders. These programs will help continue the fight against the drug epidemic in the commonwealth while providing help for those who need it.

Before becoming Governor, Beshear was the most aggressive attorney general in the country in filing lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors. At the end of 2022, Gov. Beshear announced he was taking steps to make sure the settlement funds with pharmaceutical companies that he initially sued would get to communities impacted by the opioid epidemic.

In September 2022, Gov. Beshear announced nearly $2 million in grant funding from the federal Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant. These funds provide much-needed resources for law enforcement agencies and nonprofit agencies throughout Kentucky’s 120 counties to enhance public safety and create a better, safer commonwealth for future generations.

During the 2022 legislative session, Gov. Beshear worked with a bipartisan group of state leaders to act on recommendations made by Pew Charitable Trusts on how to best address the opioid crisis. This includes signing Senate Bill 90 into law to provide eligible individuals an alternative to receive treatment for a behavioral health disorder instead of incarceration, expand recovery-ready housing and expand access to treatment for pregnant and parenting people in rural areas.

Additionally, the Governor took legislative action to help those suffering from an addiction who are not in a position to seek help for themselves. Casey’s Law, signed in 2004, has helped more than 6,000 Kentuckians battling addiction by allowing families and loved ones to seek a court order for involuntary treatment for anyone who is fighting addiction and refuses treatment on their own. Gov. Beshear signed House Bill 362 into law last year to expand on the benefit of Casey’s Law by permitting the court to determine if an individual should be ordered to undergo treatment for a substance use disorder beyond a reasonable doubt. At this time, the court shall order treatment for a specific amount of time. If the individual fails to undergo treatment, they will be held in contempt of court.

Also in April of last year, Gov. Beshear and ODCP announced $4.9 million in grants to expand treatment and recovery services to pregnant and parenting people. This funding will not only help parents recover from opioid addiction but will also address Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, a condition caused by an infant going through drug withdrawal.

The administration is working to reduce addiction and prevent reincarceration through a statewide project that provides transportation at no charge to former inmates so they can access substance-abuse recovery facilities, medical appointments, job interviews, educational courses, probation and parole meetings and employment. The Department of Corrections (DOC) is partnering with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to serve nearly 50,000 Kentuckians, currently under the supervision of probation or parole, who can use this project.

In September 2021, Gov. Beshear announced the commonwealth had launched a new initiative to help employers address addiction, boost hiring and retention and support employees in the workplace.

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 Kentucky State Police website to find one of 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.

More about the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center

KIPRC is a unique partnership between the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) and the University of Kentucky’s College of Public Health. KIPRC serves both as an academic injury prevention research center and as a bona fide agent of DPH for statewide injury prevention and control

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