Overdose Fatality Report

Substance abuse, particularly the diversion and abuse of prescription drugs, is one of the most critical public health and safety issues facing Kentucky. Over the past decade, the number of Kentuckians who die from drug overdoses has steadily climbed to more than 1,500 each year, exacting a devastating toll on families, communities, social services and economic stability and growth.

In an effort to reverse the trend, the Commonwealth has implemented a number of program and policy initiatives, including but not limited to the statewide use of prescription drug monitoring programs, expanded availability of substance abuse treatment opportunities, and the enactment of laws (House Bill 1 from the 2012 Special Session and House Bill 217 from the 2013 Regular Session) specifically addressing the availability of prescription medications.  Senate Bill 192 in the 2015 session increased penalties for traffickers and included a number of harm-reduction measures aimed at reducing overdose deaths. House Bill 333 in the 2017 session limited opioid prescriptions for acute pain to a three-day supply with certain Senate Bill 192 in the 2015 session increased penalties for traffickers and included a number of harm-reduction measures aimed at reducing overdose deaths. House Bill 333 in the 2017 session limited opioid prescriptions for acute pain to a three-day supply with certain Senate Bill 192 in the 2015 session increased penalties for traffickers and included a number of harm-reduction measures aimed at reducing overdose deaths. House Bill 333 in the 2017 session limited opioid prescriptions for acute pain to a three-day supply with certain exceptions. The law also increased penalties for trafficking in heroin, fentanyl and fentanyl analogues. 

Also in 2017, the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet and Operation UNITE launched a new substance abuse call center to connect people across the state with drug treatment.  The new KY HELP Call Center provided referrals to both public and private treatment providers.

Kentuckians struggling with a substance abuse disorder, either themselves or within their families, can call 1-833-8KY-HELP (1-833-859-4357) toll-free to speak with a live specialist about treatment options and available resources.  The specialists conduct a brief screening assessment in order to connect callers with the most relevant treatment services as quickly as possible.  Options include everything from medication-assisted treatment to faith-based care, and specialist helps callers through all the variables, such as location and cost.

In addition, a new website provided a link for Kentucky health care providers, court officials, families and individuals seeking options for substance abuse treatment and recovery.  The site, www.findhelpnowky.org, offers real-time information about available space in treatment programs, and guides users to the right type of treatment for their needs.

The website is a project of the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center (KIPRIC)  at the University of Kentucky College of Public Health, a bona fide agent of the Kentucky Department of Public Health.  The project is in partnership with the Office of Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin and the Kentucky Cabinets for Health and Family Services and Justice & Public Safety.  The site, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), links to Kentucky's current, "Don't Let Them Die"  website.       

House Bill 1 mandates that the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, in cooperation with the Kentucky Medical Examiner's Office, prepare and publish an annual public report to the Secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet to include:

1. The number of drug-related deaths;

2. The decedent's age, race, and gender, but not his or her name or address;

3. The counties in which those deaths occurred;

4. The scientific, trade, or generic names of the drugs involved; and

5. The method by which the drugs were obtained, when available.


These reports were compiled utilizing data from the Kentucky Medical Examiners Office, the Kentucky Injury Prevention & Research Council, and the Kentucky Office of Vital Statistics.