Law Enforcement Innovation Helping Drive Down Overdose Deaths
Even while the national drug crisis continued to besiege the commonwealth last year, we may have seen the first sign of hope in more than a decade. Law enforcement certainly played an important role.
According to the latest numbers from the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, overdose deaths fell by nearly 15 percent in 2018 – the first decline in five years and the most significant drop since 2000.
Overall, drugs claimed 233 fewer lives. That’s twice the size of the average senior class in Kentucky, and it underscores the stakes in our policy decisions. If we want to replicate the results next year, we need to double down on the strategies that appear most effective.
There are many to highlight in the field of policing.
Most are already familiar with the incredible interdiction efforts that police undertake every day to keep drugs off our streets and out of our state. These operations often require a high degree of collaboration. They are difficult and dangerous, and I want to thank all law enforcement officers across Kentucky who risk their safety to protect our communities from these substances.
Law enforcement is also innovating on the front lines of harm reduction.
In just one example, the Kentucky State Police Angel Initiative has connected 104 people with treatment since its launch in 2018. Several law enforcement agencies around the state run a similar angel program, and I would encourage all others to consider starting one as resources allow. While angel programs can create new costs, they absolutely pay dividends in the end, both in saving lives and in building community relationships.
Kentucky law enforcement has also made tremendous strides in emergency interventions, particularly naloxone. To give you an idea, the Office of Drug Control Policy awarded more than $324,000 to local communities in 2017 for purchasing naloxone. Much of it ended up in the hands of law enforcement.
Another $1.8 million in tobacco settlement funds was channeled to local communities for harm-reduction services, including naloxone purchases and training.
In addition, law enforcement has done tremendous work in prescription disposal. Kentucky now has more than 170 drop-off sites at police stations and sheriffs’ offices to dispose of unused medication. Efforts like that help prevent abuse in the first place.
It’s an honor to serve in a state where so many in law enforcement are eager to advance cutting-edge policy. I also want to praise Van Ingram, director of the Office of Drug Control Policy and a former police chief, who has demonstrated unwavering leadership and knowledge amid this crisis.
Despite the drop in deaths last year, we still lost more than 1,300 people to this terrible scourge. So, it’s essential that we continue our fight with a steady hand and an open mind. I’m optimistic that we will continue to do both – and see another decline.