Kentucky Overdose Deaths Continue Increase

The Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP) released a report this week that revealed the state’s overdose deaths continue to increase. According to the 2021 Overdose Fatality Report, overdose deaths jumped 14.5% from 2020 to 2021. Statistics show 2,250 Kentuckians died by overdose in 2021 compared to 1,964 in 2020. The 2020 data showed a 49% increase from 2019, when Kentucky registered 1,316 overdose deaths.

The age group with the most drug overdose deaths included those between the ages of 35 and 44, with 672 deaths. That represents an increase of 17.5% from the 572 deaths among that group in 2020.

Researchers wrote: “This concerning trend of increasing overdose deaths is due to several contributing factors. The Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP) believes that the most significant contributors have been the rise in illicit fentanyl and the indirect effects from the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought a rise in overdose deaths and new addictions nationwide.”

Researchers identified fentanyl in 1,639 drug overdose deaths, representing 72.8% of the total drug overdose deaths and an increase of 16% from the 1,413 drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl in 2020.

Battling substance abuse and its effects continues to be a top legislative priority for the Kentucky League of Cities. KLC has worked with legislators on landmark opioid settlement agreements, recovery ready communities, and more.

Lawmakers passed House Bill 92 during the 2022 Regular Session. The KLC initiative clarified how Kentucky will spend opioid settlement funds and created a backstop to ensure cities can pay required legal fees. Rep. Adam Bowling (R-Middlesboro) sponsored another KLC initiative, House Bill 7 (2021), which created the Advisory Council for Recovery Ready Communities.

“This is not a record we wanted to break, and it is heartbreaking that Kentucky families have to endure this tragedy,” Bowling said. “Make no mistake, substance abuse is a crippling, dangerous disease that can be prevented and treated successfully.”

Bowling argued that substance abusers need community support and free or low-cost access to treatment services. “The Recovery Ready Community Program will empower cities and counties to provide a powerful lifeline to help Kentuckians build a life free from addiction,” he said. “I’m extremely pleased to see Volunteers of America step into this role and hopeful we will see real progress over the next few weeks and months.”