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Overdose deaths on the rise in Clark

The Clark County Coroner’s Office worked three overdose deaths last weekend.

And for the year, there have been eight deaths attributed to drug overdoses, according to Coroner Robert Gayheart. That’s twice as many as the four deaths during January through April of last year.

Gayheart said his deputies have seen drug deaths involving heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil, oxycodone, gabapentin, sedatives and methamphetamine in the 12 years he’s been coroner.

In 2018, there were 16 drug overdose deaths in the county, and last year, there were seven between January and August. He said there were probably 11 for the whole year.

“I think there are a lot of people living with a hopeless outlook,” and that contributes to drug deaths, Gayheart said.

“It gets frustrating when you’re in the same home again and again,” he said, and mentioned one house where three people have died during his time as coroner.

Gayheart said he doesn’t think the increase in overdose deaths is related to the coronavirus outbreak and social isolation, but he can’t say for sure.

“I don’t like to speculate,” he said.

While drug overdose deaths are double what they were last year, drug overdoses in general are not up significantly, according to Lt. Jacob Allen, emergency medical services officer for Winchester Fire-EMS.

“There hasn’t been an increase in overdoses … not that would be any kind of outlier,” he said.

Based on “primary impressions of the provider,” meaning what an EMT or paramedic observes, there has been an increase of four cases in Winchester and Clark County in April of this year — 15 compared to 11 for the same month in 2019.

Clark County Sheriff Berl Perdue said he hasn’t seen a noticeable increase in drug activity.

“We’re really not seeing an uptick in arrests, and really not a great big difference in overdoses,” he said.

Perdue said the high number of recent drug deaths could be the result of something like “a bad batch of heroin.”

About Randy Patrick

Randy Patrick is a reporter for Bluegrass Newsmedia, which includes The Jessamine Journal. He may be reached at 859-759-0015 or by email at randy.patrick@bluegrassnewsmedia.com.

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