Kentucky’s overdose deaths fell in 2018, but the death toll in Johnson County remained around the same, according to data from the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy’s Overdose Fatality Report.
Statewide, overdose deaths fell from 1,477 in 2017 to 1,333 in 2018, with exactly five of those 2018 deaths taking place in Johnson County. That figure is up from the 2017 rate of “fewer than five,” since the data does not list an exact number when the figure is under five deaths. Johnson County had seen fewer than five overdose deaths also in 2016, seven deaths in 2015, fewer than five in 2014, seven in 2013 and nine in 2012.
In the region, these figures still make Johnson County one of the lightest for overdose deaths next to Pike County’s 16 deaths in 2018 or Floyd County’s 11. Even Perry County, the population of which is not much closer to Johnson County’s, experienced nine such deaths. Even adjusting for population, Johnson County’s rate per capita is lower.
“The drug epidemic has taken an incalculable toll on the families and communities of our state and our nation,” Gov. Matt Bevin said in a statement. “We are extremely grateful to see a significant decline in overdose fatalities, but there is still much work to do. Our administration will continue our strong partnership with legislators, law enforcement officers and healthcare professionals, as we allocate unprecedented resources to combat this scourge and save lives.”
Johnson County Sheriff Doug Saylor said the strides made in combating opioids and closing down overprescribing doctors have led to a regional transition to other drugs, including methamphetamine, heroin, and more recently, fentanyl and carfentanil.
According to the governor’s office statement, fentanyl and fentanyl analogues like carfentanil were the most lethal drug in 2018, as part of 786 overdose deaths. Methamphetamine also caused more deaths.
“The currently available drugs are leading to a new level of addiction and lives are at risk,” Saylor said. “All local agencies are battling this epidemic.”
Saylor said agencies large and small, from city, to county, to other regional agencies, to state police and police in other states, are working together on the problem. Saylor said that between law enforcement and the courts, work is being done to differentiate addicts from traffickers and seek appropriate help and sentencing accordingly.
“We welcome any and all tips,” Saylor said. “It’s sad that so many families are dealing with loved ones addicted to substances that can take their lives.”
The Johnson County Sheriff’s Department’s tip line is, (606) 788-0252. Tips can be left 24 hours a day and callers may remain anonymous.