• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Opioid drug overdoses show no signs of declining

The number of drug overdoses in the community has not declined since last year, according to data released by the director of Woodford County Emergency Medical Services (EMS). EMS responded to 31 drug overdoses (and administered 34 doses of Narcan to block the effects of 29 opioid overdoses) so far this year, Freeman Bailey said on May 25. That compares to last year's 91 total drug overdoses, including 14 overdoses through May, he said. EMS personnel administered 75 doses of Narcan to 53 patients who overdosed from opioids last year, Bailey said. He said the busiest months for overdoses typically are during the summer through December, but EMS already responded to seven opioid overdoses in January, four in February, six in March, 10 in April and two in May of this year. If the historic trend of more overdoses occurring in the summertime continues, Bailey said, "Our numbers will probably be higher this year than they were last year." The Versailles Police Department has recently asked for assistance with funding in order to purchase Narcan for its officers "so hopefully we can help overdose victims if we're in that position," said VPD Chief James Fugate "But not only that, for the safety of our own officers. If an officer were exposed (to heroin or fentanyl) we would have the Narcan" to block the effects of that opioid. The cost of Narcan (also known as Naloxone) has climbed to about $35 to $38 a dose, according to Bailey. Before the opioid epidemic hit the country, he said Narcan was available for about $10 a dose in 2015. Grant dollars have allowed Woodford County EMS to maintain an adequate supply of Narcan to treat opioid overdoses, he said. Bailey said patients react differently after being given a dose of Narcan to block the effects of an opioid. "Some of them are very thankful that you've gotten them back around. Some of them want to fight so you have to prepare for that as you're administering it," explained Bailey. "Some of them are frustrated because you woke them up and you stole their high." According to a recent Kentucky Health Issues Poll (KHIP), sponsored by the Interact for Health and the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, three in 10 Kentuckians (27 percent) have family members or friends who experienced problems as a result of abusing prescription pain relievers such as OxyContin. And nearly two of 10 (17 percent) know someone with problems as a result of using heroin. In Central Kentucky, 20 percent of the people polled know someone with problems due to heroin. Among young adults across the country, heroin use has more than doubled in the past decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Asked about the drug epidemic in Kentucky and across the country, Bailey, who has been with Woodford County EMS for 29 years, said "It's not going anywhere. It's still here." And because heroin is cheaper (and often easier) to buy than other opioids, it remains popular among drug users, but "we are starting to see the meth (methamphetamine) pick back up again," he said. With the departure of Det. Keith Ford to the state agency of Alcohol Beverage Control, the Versailles Police Department will need to fill Ford's slot on a three-county narcotics task force, Chief Fugate said. "There are other detectives involved in (that task force) so they're still working" drug cases in Bourbon, Scott and Woodford counties, said Fugate. Two Versailles detectives also continue to investigate drug cases here, where a search warrant was executed within the city as recently as three weeks ago and "there were small amounts of heroin and crystal meth seized as a result of that investigation," Fugate said. He said the Versailles Police Department has also had an officer assigned to a DEA unit in Lexington since 2005. "It is ever-changing," said Fugate of illicit drugs abuse in Woodford County. "But we remain - as we've always remained - focused on" ridding the community of drugs. "There are things we do proactively as well as following up on tips or complaints from the public, which we get pretty regularly." He said his department relies heavily on the public for information, complaints and tips, which can be anonymous, to investigate illicit drug use and trafficking in neighborhoods.

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