LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (February 16, 2017) – This week when CNN shadowed first responders in Kentucky, nine overdoses occurred during the three hour time frame of the network’s ride-a-long, shedding more light on the opioid epidemic claiming 144 lives a day in the United States.
In a town of just 766,000 people, Sonia Moghe reports that many of the overdoses are suspected heroin. Mayor Greg Fischer just two weeks ago promised 150 more police officers to work with feds to get dealers off their streets.
“I have a message for heroin dealers,” says United States Attorney John Kuhn. “You are killing people in this city from every walk of life. From this point forward, if you sell heroin that causes an overdose, we will bring federal charges against you that will get you a minimum of 20 years in prison with no parole. The trafficking in this deadly poison must end.”
EMS crews told CNN there’s been a major upswing in the past two months on overdose calls, averaging 22 each day, up 33% from this time last year. The 38 overdoses per day – which occurred during the past few days – almost double last month’s average.
The Kentucky Department for Public Health warned Kentuckians about the risk after 15 overdoses occurred, 12 of which were fatal, over Labor Day weekend.
“Of concern is the fact that around 80 percent of the overdoses voluntarily reported to us this weekend ended in death,” said DPH Deputy Senior Commissioner for Clinical Affairs Dr. Connie White. “We need to use this information to educate the public: if you are using or have a friend or family member who uses, have naloxone available for resuscitation. Seconds matter.”
The Kentucky Harm Reduction Coalition trained and handed out naloxone kits to 80 people this week.
“Naloxone is a great first response for opioid overdose, but it doesn’t resolve the issue of addiction,” says Vertava Health Director of Alumni Relations Amber Mohr. “Naloxone is absolutely necessary. You cannot save someone who is dead. But we, as treatment centers, now need to be there ready to aid in the discontinuance of the abuse.”