LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The overdose crisis is affecting the entire country, including Metro Louisville, and the end-of-year fatal overdose numbers reveal just that.
According to the Jefferson County Coroner's Office, this year there have been 516 overdose deaths, with 100 still pending. In 2021, that number was roughly the same at 620.
Jennifer Twyman, an organizer with VOCAL-KY, a newly formed organization, said the consistent numbers show Louisville needs more resources, including housing and access to drugs that help eliminate withdrawal symptoms.
“We need to break those barriers down, take the stigma away from those and make them readily available and easily access for people, because the more that we provide them with tools that keep people alive, the more people are alive,” Twyman said. “The more options that we have out there for people, the less barriers, the less stigma.”
Twyman said VOCAL-KY has reached 1,200 people living on the street and suffering with addiction.
Pony Morris is one of the organizations outreach workers, serving as a street canvass leader. He suffered with addiction for years but found the drive to stay sober in preparation for the birth of his daughter, who is now about 4 weeks old.
He's lost friends to overdoses, and now with Louisville's end-of-the-year fatal overdose numbers revealed, Morris reflects even more.
“I could have been one of those names at any time, so somehow blessings is just ahead of me while I'm still here,” he said. “Instead of dying, I really just got busy living.”
Morris said supervised consumption sites might make an impact in Louisville. The spaces allow people to use drugs surrounded by caretakers who will monitor for overdoses and use Narcan, an overdose-reversing tool, when necessary. New York pioneered the centers in 2021.
Courtney Weisshaupt, director of men's services at The Healing Place, said the long-standing nonprofit has seen more than 6,200 people in its detox centers this year. She says the percentage of people using popular drugs, like meth and opiates, are about the same as last year.
Though the steady trend is in overdose deaths is disappointing, she's glad there isn't an increase.
“All the folks that are coming together to go out into the community and meet people where they are to discuss services with them to bring them services, I think that, that helps,” she said.
Weisshaupt also said collaborating with other organizations that help with addiction is important.
“We need to be communicating with each other because if we're not able to help someone here, we might know someone else who can help and getting people connected to the services is key,” she said.
Addiction experts also say it takes the community to understand how addiction is a disease because often stigma keeps people from services.
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