FRANKFORT, Ky. – Since 2011, when Kentucky was flooded with 371 million doses of opioid painkillers, state officials in psychiatric hospitals have gone mad, suing and limiting pharmaceutical companies How many pills doctors can prescribe.
The result in 2017 is nearly 100 million fewer opioid prescriptions – and an 11.5 percent increase in overdose deaths.
These are the sobering results of a new report by the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy in a state on the frontline of the opioid epidemic. According to the report, 1,565 people died of overdoses of drugs in 2017, an increase of 40 percent over the last five years.
Deaths attributed to prescription painkillers and heroin are on the decline. But other drugs have taken their place. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, accounted for more than half of all deaths. And methamphetamine has made a comeback, responsible for 360 deaths. That's an increase of 57 percent in just one year.
"We are in a crisis state," said Republican Governor Matt Bevin. "While we make money with it, and while we point out, until we start to really address this and look at the underlying causes of these things and what leads to it, it is not addressed."
At national level, opioids were responsible for more than 42,000 deaths in 2016. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the states with the highest deaths from overdoses this year were West Virginia, Ohio, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Kentucky year, Kentucky legislators have enacted more laws to address the opioid problem. They have increased the penalties for heroin dealers. They have spent more money on drug treatment programs. And they limited the patients to a three-day supply of prescription painkillers, unless a doctor gave them written permission for a larger amount.
State officials spent $ 500,000 to create 1-833-8KY-HELP, a hotline to connect people with treatment options. And they spent thousands of dollars administering naloxone to the first responders, a medicine that can reverse an opioid overdose.
Anti-drug advocates celebrate these changes, but their celebration is purged once a year, when the new numbers come out, how many people are still coming
"Most of the things we do, we will not immediately implement" said Van Ingram, executive director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy. "It just never gets easier."
Many anti-drug advocates have awarded the Affordable Care Act to help people with the treatment. The law, known as Obamacare, expanded the Medicaid program to give more than 400,000 Kentuckians health insurance. Many used this coverage to seek drug treatment.
Bevin wants people in Kentucky's extended Medicaid population to get a job, go to school, or do volunteer work to keep their cover. He also wants to charge them small monthly premiums to model private insurance plans.
Critics have said that the result will be fewer people on Medicaid with fewer treatment options. But Bevin's plan would prevent people with substance abuse from complying with the new rules. These rules were to come into effect on July 1, but were blocked by a federal judge.
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