Our View: Report offers valuable insight into overdoses

The recently-released 2017 Overdose Fatality Report serves as more than a scary reminder that the drug epidemic in Kentucky and our community continues to grow. While the statistics shared can be frightening, they also will be valuable as agencies and organizations across the Commonwealth continue developing and reshaping a plan to tackle this devastating trend.

According to the report, which was released by the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy this week, “Over the past decade, the number of Kentuckians who die from drug overdoses has steadily climbed to more than 1,500 this year, exacting a devastating toll on families, communities, social services and economic growth.”

The report also states 17 Clark County residents died by drug overdose in 2017. The rate was 47.2 per 100,000 residents. The 2016 report states six overdoses occurred in Clark County and nine Clark County residents died by overdose that year.

The number of deaths in Clark County has varied over the years, with the highest being 18 deaths counted in 2012 and the lowest being eight in 2014.

Some other highlights included:

— People ages 35 to 44 were the largest demographic in overdose deaths with 353 reported in 2017.

— Autopsies and toxicology reports from coroners show fentanyl was involved in 763 Kentucky resident overdose deaths. That accounts for 52 percent of all deaths, up from 47 percent in 2016.

— Morphine was detected in 627 cases and monoacetylmorphine (heroin) in 327.

— Alprazolam was detected in approximately 36 percent of cases; gabapentin, 31 percent; methamphetamine, 29 percent (a 57 percent increase); oxycodone, 14 percent (a 6 percent decline); hydrocodone, 14 percent (a 2 percent decline).

— The largest increase in overdose fatalities occurred in Jefferson County, where deaths increased by 62, from 364 deaths in 2016. Other counties with significant increases include Fayette County by 49, Campbell County by 26, and Kenton County by 17.

  The largest decrease occurred in Madison County, which had nine fewer fatalities in 2017 compared to the previous year. Other counties with significant declines include Bell County, which declined by 10; and Knox County, which declined by eight. Breathitt and Scott Counties declined by six.

While tracking trends in important, responding to them is critical.

Using this data to implement programs to respond to failures and learn from successes will be key as officials continue trying to gain a grip on the drug epidemic.

Using these statistics, agencies can better know who to target for treatment and where prevention will be most effective. Police can learn more about drug trends and where to focus their resources. Communities can look at programs implemented in areas where overdoses are decreasing and see what is working there.

It serves as a stark reminder of the devastation inflicted on our state and community, but this and much more can be learned from this report.