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A Killer Among Us

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Guest Column from Allison Jones, KY Court of Appeals Judge

There is a killer epidemic spreading virally across Kentucky, one that until recently we heard very little about. It is the drug heroin. The patterns related to arrests and overdose deaths confirm that left unchecked heroin will quietly overtake one community after another. Over the last several years, heroin spread from Cincinnati, Ohio, to Campbell, Kenton, and Boone counties in Kentucky. Drastically underfunded and without centralized state-wide support, Northern Kentucky battled the heroin epidemic without much attention from the rest of the state. Not surprisingly, without the proper state resources to provide comprehensive education, prevention, treatment, and enforcement programs, Northern Kentucky was not able to stop the heroin virus from spreading.

Heroin has moved beyond the borders of Northern Kentucky and is overtaking the rest of the Commonwealth. I challenge anyone who considers this warning alarmist to take hard look at the numbers. Kentucky’s 2012 Overdose Fatality Report reveals that autopsied overdose deaths attributed to the use of heroin increased from 22 in 2011 to 143 in 2012--a 550% increase. This year is looking even worse. Last month a Lexington news station published a story on its website stating that so far this year 33 people have died from heroin overdoses in Lexington, which is 11 more deaths that the entire statewide total for 2011. Overdose and death rates are also up in other areas of the state, areas that before the last couple years did not see much, if any, heroin use. As a public servant, I recognize the impact that this issue is having on our state and local governments (including my own branch of government –the judiciary) and the effect it has on my constituents. I want to work toward a solution that gives parents and citizens the tools they need to educate their children and their communities about heroin and its deadly effects, we must provide law enforcement and the judiciary with the resources they need to protect our community and prevent offender recidivism, a key component of the judicial system.

Law enforcement is overburdened, court dockets are increasing, and worst of all families are being ripped apart. We need more resources devoted to education, law enforcement, and treatment facilities. I urge community and statewide leaders to take action now and devote adequate resources to fight this problem so that no more Kentucky citizens become statistics in the heroin epidemic. Unfortunately, we cannot use a vaccine to eradicate heroin addiction. But, like any disease, we can fight it with appropriate precautionary measures and treatment.