Following a year that experienced a 54% increase in drug overdose deaths, Kentucky leaders recognized Overdose Awareness Day. An event in the Capitol Rotunda gave Governor Andy Beshear and others a chance to address the situation and the opioid epidemic plaguing cities. The KLC Board of Directors made combating substance abuse a top legislative priority for the 2022 session, including treatment, rehabilitation, training, workforce reentry, and criminal aspects of drug trafficking.
Beshear commented that, even as the state continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, we should not lose sight of other important battles, including the effort to prevent drug overdoses. He cited the 2,104 drug-related deaths in 2020 and called for continued work to find solutions.
“Today is a sorrowful reminder that there is not a person in the commonwealth whose family has not been touched in some way by the drug epidemic,” said Attorney General Daniel Cameron.
Cameron, wearing a purple tie to symbolize the color used to recognize the cause, commented, “Not only is it a day of remembrance; it is a call to action.” He spoke of the $460 million opioid settlement recently reached with three major pharmaceutical distributors and Johnson & Johnson. Cameron also mentioned House Bill 427, a measure legislators passed in the 2021 session that requires 50% of Kentucky’s settlement to go to city and county governments.
Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP) Executive Director Van Ingram noted that the stresses of 2020 fueled a spike in drug use and the subsequent increase in overdose deaths.
He said that transportation barriers continue to hinder Kentuckians wanting to recover. Many people do not have access to public transportation and cannot get to recovery centers and classes. Ingram said that ODCP is working to find solutions to that issue. “There are tools to help you,” Ingram assured families.
He reminded those looking to assist loved ones toward recovery that the website findhelpnowky.org offers direction at the click of a mouse, and the statewide call center can help at (833) 8KY-HELP.