A new report indicates Kentucky is making some progress in reducing overdose deaths, but there is still much work to do.

There were 233 fewer drug fatalities in Kentucky during 2018 than in 2017, according to a report for the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy. The report released this month shows the first decline in overdose deaths since 2013 – down from the record high of 1,566 in 2017 to 1,333 in 2018.

The drop is also the largest decline in deaths in a decade.

Some other key findings from the report:

  • Fentanyl and fentanyl analogues were the most lethal drug in 2018, contributing to 786 overdose deaths.
  • There was an increase in deaths attributed to methamphetamine.

Deaths from other controlled substances such as heroin, alprazolam and gabapentin all declined in 2018.

This decline is worth celebrating. It means the efforts being made at all levels in our state and our communities are working.

Those efforts include expanding access to treatment, providing more treatment options and after-care programs for those incarcerated with substance abuse disorders, establishing more peer-support programs in communities, raising awareness and education about addiction and treatment, harm-reduction programs and more.

While there’s room for celebration, there are still too many people dying from drug overdoses. There is still much work to be done.

We’ve seen some progress. Now is time to evaluate what is working and what is not.

It is prime time to continue shifting our model for response to the drug epidemic in our state to best meet the needs of our community and to help those who are struggling with drug addiction.

The approach is multi-faceted. It takes those in local and state government, those working in mental health, DCBS, our prisons, our law enforcement, the faith community, concerned families and citizens to make a real difference.

Success is worth acknowledging, but it proves we need to continue to press forward in order to find real relief for our communities.

We believe Kentucky is taking the correct steps to address the problem and has proven willing to re-evaluate and adjust where needed. That is why our state has seen more success than others.

That willingness to look at the issue from all angles will be key to continuing this decline in overdose deaths.

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