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Coroner talks about county's overdose problem

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Coroner Daniel Cook said there are no clear solutions moving forward, but people need to work together on helping the problem

By Zac Oakes

 

Drug overdoses do not discriminate, and they are on the rise in Taylor County, around the state, and across the nation.

That was a portion of the message Taylor County Coroner Daniel Cook gave to local healthcare professionals during a meeting of the Alliance for a Better Community at the Taylor County Extension Office last week.

“Drug abuse and drug use, especially heroin with what we are seeing right now, has nothing to care about people’s socio-economic backgrounds,” Cook said. “It doesn’t care if you are white or black, rich or poor, educated or not educated. It doesn’t care where you come from, your religious background. We literally have this happening everywhere. It’s in our schools, it’s in our churches, it may be taking place in the parking lot right now. It is happening right underneath our noses and it is affecting everyone.”

In Taylor County, there were four overdose deaths in 2015, seven in 2016, eight in 2017, and there have already been eight in 2018, with a couple pending, Cook said. 

The statistics can’t be fully accurate though, Cook said, as there have been several instances where people have died in other circumstances, but drugs have been found at the scene. 

Around four people die per day in Kentucky due to a drug overdose, Cook said, and the largest demographic affected by overdoses are adults ages 35-44 and 45-54. According to recent reports, 1,565 people died of a drug overdose in Kentucky in 2017, up 161 from the previous year.

“I know that [the age demographics] are unbelievable,” Cook said. “We like to think it’s the young kids using drugs, but it goes to show that it’s the adults.” 

In 2018, an estimated 80,000 people in the United States will die from a drug overdose, which is more than the populations of Taylor, Adair, Green, and Marion counties combined. Nationwide, that would be around 220 deaths per day. 

Cook connected a rise in suicide deaths locally with the rise in drug use. 

“I personally think that as the drug problem continues to grow, our suicide problem will continue to grow,” Cook said. “I personally have my own beliefs as to why this is happening, but professionally speaking, you can attribute that to people becoming more dependent on substances than what they need to be dependent on.”

Cook said heroin is one of the larger problems he sees, but it isn’t the only one. Cocaine and methamphetamine were also attributed to overdoses in Taylor County last year, but one of the bigger problems lies with abuse of prescription medications. 

“Doctors are overmedicating patients,” he said. “They’re doing it and it is killing people left and right.”

The problem existing in Taylor County exists to a point where Cook said he often refers to Campbellsville as “Little Louisville.” 

“Whether I should or not, I do,” he said. “Crime rate wise, drug overdose wise, we’re pretty on key with Louisville. Obviously they’re bigger and have a lot more problems than we do, but we’ve got to get out of our mindsets. This isn’t small town USA anymore. You can’t leave your back door open, let your kids run down the street, and do whatever they want to.” 

Cook concluded by offering a challenge to those in attendance. He said that knowing 80,000 people will die this year from drug overdoses, people should be more inclined to do something to stop it. 

“I don’t really know where to start,” he said. “We, along with first responders and many people in this room, are on the frontlines of it and we have to continue to find a way to stop it.”