State report: overdose deaths increasing in Kentucky

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ)-Often on ABC 36, we tell you about the drug epidemic impacting the whole country. A new report proves its hold on Kentucky.

The state’s 2017 overdose fatality report shows more than 1,500 people died from an overdose last year, an 11.5% increase from 2016.

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The Office of Drug Control Policy attributes that to Fentanyl. According to the report, more than half of the people who died from an o.d. last year had the opioid in their system.

About 22% had heroin, fewer than last year. It often seems like solutions to this crisis aren’t keeping up with the problems.

Another study this week shows, though, a Lexington recovery center is helping clients leave drugs behind.

When you call the Hope Center’s Privett Recovery Center, John Hansard’s voice is likely the first you’ll hear.

He mans the front desk. He also mentors the men going through the same six and a half month program he did last summer.

“If I can stop one of these guys from enduring just a little bit of the pain I’ve had to go through in my life, the overdoses, they physical problems,  then in my eyes it was all worth it,” Hansard said.

He says heroin and Fentanyl use put him in the hospital. Overdoses, an infection in his foot, seven surgeries, a coma, flat-lining three times in a day and a half are all experiences he had before he came to the center.

“I had pretty much burnt all the bridges I had with my family so yeah, it was a very scary time,” Hansard said.

Now, he says he’s living again. He attributes it to the time he’s spent at the Hope Center, being sober, but also learning why he used drugs and how to fight those reasons.

A study found Hansard is in good company. It showed opioid misuse dropped more than 90% for hope center clients.

“It’s exciting, not surprising,” Janice James, the center’s Administrative Deputy Director, said.

She says the center has been getting those outcomes since its start 20 years ago.

Another report from this week, though, shows more Kentuckians are dying from overdoses, largely due to Fentanyl.

“It’s really saturating these communities. I heard a client tell me not too long ago it was easier to get Fentanyl than to buy a pack of cigarettes,” Chuck Gilliam, the Recovery Program Services Manager, said.

The Hope Center partners with other community groups to tackle not only substance misuse, but underlying issues that come with them, such as mental health and homelessness.

“There are different philosophies, different models, but we know we are an answer,” James said.

Over the last ten years, Hope has continued to expand. When it seems as if solutions can’t keep up with the number of deaths, the center says it’s a blueprint for how the state can fight the drug epidemic, and win.

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Veronica Jean Seltzer joins ABC 36 as Anchor/Reporter. On most weekdays, you will see her reporting the news. VJ hails from a small horse farm outside New York City and most recently comes from South Bend, Indiana where she reported for the CBS and Fox affiliates. VJ holds a Master of Science in Journalism degree from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Tufts University. Her passion for journalism runs deep. It began as she studied graffiti as an ancient form of communication in Athens, Greece. While a student journalist in Morocco, she learned her most important journalistic lesson: good stories are about people. VJ loves life in and around Lexington. She feels most at home among horses and a diverse community of fascinating people. She enjoys reporting during the week and on the weekend she strives to bring her neighbors the news that matters most to them. VJ enjoys going to neighborhood events, exploring, horseback riding, skiing, sailing, and good movies. Look for her out and about in the community! VJ invites you to reach out to her with story ideas or just to say hello! Find her on Facebook at Veronica Jean Seltzer ABC 36, tweet her @VJS_ABC36, or email her at VSeltzer@wtvq.com. She looks forward to hearing from you!