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Newly Released Data Estimates Kentucky Saw Second Highest Increase Of Drug Overdose Deaths In The US

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention map showing 12 month-ending provisional number of drug overdose deaths.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention map showing 12 month-ending provisional number of drug overdose deaths.

Kentucky drug overdose deaths increased by nearly 54% in 2020. That’s according to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.  

The CDC data estimates Kentucky saw the second highest drug overdose increase in the US in 2020. That’s second only to Vermont, which had the highest estimated increase.

The CDC’s predicted data estimates that more than 93,000 overdose deaths occurred in the U.S. in 2020. It’s the most deaths reported in a 12-month period.

Meghan Steel with the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center said counties with the highest overdose deaths have shifted.

“Eastern Kentucky has actually done a fantastic job of lowering their drug overdose mortality rate in comparison to central Kentucky,” Steel said.

Steel said although overdose deaths increased, she created a map that shows where mortality rates shifted.

“And it's almost like a rotating circle where it’s moving out of eastern Kentucky and it’s much more centered in Central Kentucky,” Steel said. “So all three of the counties with the highest drug overdose mortality rates are all in central and northern Kentucky.” Fatal overdoses were also declining in Appalachian Kentucky prior to the pandemic.

The CDC estimates more than 2,100 people died in Kentucky from overdoses in 2020. That is a 53% increase from 2019.

Copyright 2021 WEKU. To see more, visit WEKU.

Corinne Boyer is the health reporter for the ReSource. Previously, she covered western Kansas for the Kansas News Service at High Plains Public Radio. She received two Kansas Association of Broadcasters awards for her reporting on immigrant communities. Before living on the High Plains, Corinne was a newspaper reporter in Oregon. She earned her master’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon and interned at KLCC, Eugene’s NPR member station. Corinne grew up near the South Carolina coast and is a graduate of the College of Charleston. She has lived in New York City and South Korea. Corinne loves running, checking out stacks of books and spending time with her rescue cat, Priya.
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