- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 8, 2015

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. (AP) - The number of heroin overdoses at five northern Kentucky hospitals has continued to climb, but officials aren’t sure if that’s because more people are calling 911 for help, or more people are using heroin.

St. Elizabeth Healthcare released a report this week that their hospitals are seeing an average of three heroin overdoses a day this year, up from an average of two per day in 2014, The Kentucky Enquirer reports (https://cin.ci/1eEfSUh). Officials say the statistics from the St. Elizabeth hospitals provide a good gauge over time in the region.

St. Elizabeth says an increasing number of heroin users have been saved by the overdose reversal drug naloxone in each six-month period since the system began tracking the numbers in 2011.

Under Kentucky’s good Samaritan law - signed by Gov. Beshear in March - heroin users experiencing an overdose can qualify for immunity from criminal and civil complaints as long as 911 is called.

Jason Merrick, director of inmate addiction services for Kenton County and a harm-reduction activist in Northern Kentucky, wasn’t surprised to learn of the jump in St. Elizabeth’s numbers.

“It’s almost expected, because more people are becoming aware of the disease and the shame and stigma is decreasing,” Merrick said. “Fewer people are hiding.”

Van Ingram, executive director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, is cautiously optimistic that the supply isn’t growing in the commonwealth based on submissions of heroin cases to the Kentucky State Police crime lab.

Heroin submissions jumped year over year since 2010, from 451 to 3,840 in 2014, but have a current projection of 3,790 in 2015, Ingram said.

“They seem to be stabilizing,” Ingram said. “That is my hope.”

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Information from: The Kentucky Enquirer, https://www.nky.com


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