A preliminary federal report shows drug overdose deaths in Kentucky rose 13.55% in 2021, to an estimated 2,391 deaths. It also shows that again, opioids and synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, were the two main contributors.
|Coroner Jimmy Cornelison
(Madison County website photo)
County figures will be released in the annual state report in a few weeks, but county coroners keep a running count, and they can tell the story of how such deaths impact a community. Madison County Coroner Jimmy Cornelison told Lexington’s WKYT-TV a bit of that story.
Cornelison told reporter Jeremy Tombs that he knocks on the doors of families to tell them they’ve lost loved ones.
“I’ve done a family where I did three children in that same family,” he said. “Three times I hugged that mother; three times.”
Madison County saw 75 people die from a drug overdose in 2021, up 27 percent from the 59 OD deaths recorded in 2020, WKYT reports
. Cornelison added that these numbers don’t show the full scale of the problem.
He told Tombs that one problem is that Madison County, is along Interstate 75, “so you can hop on, hop off. Stop in Richmond and sell your goods, meet somebody in a parking lot and be gone in 10 minutes.”
Cornelison said that while he didn’t see a way out of this worsening situation, it’s important to not give up on people who have a drug problem. “We have to invest in these folks. Number one invest in keeping them clean,” he said. “Find them something to do, get them a job.”
First responders help curb overdose deaths by carrying Narcan, a drug that blocks the effect of opioids. Cornelison told WKYT that his county’s overdose death numbers would likely be one-third higher if it weren’t for the pre-hospital care some people receive.
People who are struggling with drug abuse or who are concerned about a family member’s substance use can search for treatment providers at www.findhelpnowky.org