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Report: Kentucky Overdose Deaths Increased Nearly 50% In 2020


Drug overdose deaths rose by nearly 50% in Kentucky in 2020, according to new numbers from the state Justice and Public Safety Cabinet. 

Nearly 2,000 Kentuckians died due to drug overdoses amid months of unprecedented lockdowns and record unemployment last year. The increase helped fuel a nationwide escalation in overdoses that took more than 93,000 lives, shattering all previous 12-month records.

The majority of deaths in Kentucky were related to the abuse of opioids – with fentanyl and fentanyl-like drugs being cited by the state Medical Examiner’s office as a main driver.

Office of Drug Control Policy head Van Ingram said the new wave of overdose deaths is tied not only to the additional stresses brought on by the pandemic, but also by the widespread availability of potent and inexpensive methamphetamines.

To help combat the problem, the Beshear administration has directed more grant funding to treatment services and recovery programs. The state also enacted new legislation aimed at making sure resources are in place to help recovering Kentuckians gain access to employment and transportation.  

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.