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Kentucky Has Second-Highest Rate of Drug Overdose Deaths in U.S.

Chalermchai Chamnanyon, 123rf Stock Photo


  A new report shows the impact of drug deaths on Kentucky’s overall health. The commonwealth has the second-highest rate of drug deaths in the nation, according to a recent report published by United Healthcare Foundation.

Only West Virginia was worse.

The report shows nearly 26 Kentuckians out of 100,000 die due to a drug overdose.

Dr. Julie Daftari is Chief Medical Officer for United Healthcare in Kentucky. She said the commonwealth has taken recent actions that will lower those numbers.

“Kentucky recently signed into law some prescribing limits on some types of controlled substances, so hopefully that will help make a dent. There’s also greater access to naloxone, which can reverse the effects of an overdose. So I think we’re definitely taking the right steps to help out on the problem,” said Daftari.

Dr. Daftari also said the growing number of needle exchange programs in the state is a positive step.

“There’s definitely been evidence shown that needle exchange programs can help decrease some of the risk of some of the communicable diseases, like Hepatitis and HIV. So even though it doesn’t necessarily battle the drug deaths due to overdose, it definitely helps keep people safer,” said Daftari.

While Kentucky’s increasing number of opioid-related drug deaths continues to gain attention, the state’s rate of cancer deaths is more than nine times worse. Kentucky has the highest rate of cancer deaths in the nation and the second highest number of adults who smoke.

The United Healthcare Foundation report also ranked Kentucky 49th for senior health, and 34th for the health of women and children.


Kevin is the News Director at WKU Public Radio. He has been with the station since 1999, and was previously the Assistant News Director, and also served as local host of Morning Edition. He is a broadcast journalism graduate of WKU, and has won numerous awards for his reporting and feature production. Kevin grew up in Radcliff, Kentucky and currently lives in Glasgow.
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