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New statistics show heroin-related overdose deaths decline in northern Kentucky counties

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COVINGTON, Kentucky — Heroin-related overdose deaths declined in 2014 in some northern Kentucky counties hard hit by the drug epidemic, according to new statistics.

Citing the latest statistics from the Kentucky Medical Examiner's office, The Kentucky Enquirer (http://cin.ci/1JV4mRo ) reports that Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties had a combined 64 heroin-related overdose deaths in 2014, down from 72 in 2013.

"I hope this is the beginning of a trend that we've at least begun to stabilize the crisis," said Dr. Mina "Mike" Kalfas, a northern Kentucky certified addiction specialist. But he added, "We have to keep fighting. We need to tighten our defenses."

Leaders of the Northern Kentucky Heroin Impact Response Task Force say the drop shows community efforts are beginning to yield results.

"The numbers show people are getting to where they can get help," said Jim Thaxton, coordinator of the task force. "This could just be an anomaly. As quick as we find a plausible solution, these cartels seem to find a way to speed things up and make heroin more available and more palatable. It comes down in price. It comes in a different form."

Dr. Tracey Corey, Kentucky's chief medical examiner, released to The Enquirer the latest count of overdose deaths statewide that included heroin in the bloodstream. Her analyst noted that the medical examiner does not get all heroin-related overdose deaths cases, however.

The medical examiner had 233 such deaths in 2014, up from 230 in 2013.

But Kenton County's dropped from 34 to 28; and Boone County's, from 22 to 17. Campbell County's heroin-related overdose deaths increased: The county coroner reported 19 deaths — 18 through chief medical examiner's office — up from 16 in 2013.

"It is no coincidence that these numbers are lower where we have concentrated our efforts," said Jason Merrick, chairman of Northern Kentucky People Advocating Recovery.

He attributes the drop to multipronged efforts to curb heroin, including getting out the life-saving drug naloxone

The pharmaceutical can pull heroin and opioid overdose victims into immediate withdrawal, restoring breathing and saving lives. Merrick leads a team of volunteers that distributed 500 naloxone kits since October 2013 in the three counties. To date, 25 lives were saved with the medication distributed.


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

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