Whitley County is continuing to experience a spike in drug overdoses as officials reported 10 in the last week, including two fatalities.
While the details that led to these incidents are unknown, Whitley County Health Department Director Marcy Rein said the number is a significant increase over typical monthly numbers, and follows a similar pattern seen in at least four other Kentucky counties.
“I have spoken with Whitley County EMS Director Kelly Harrison and based on their reports, we may have six overdoses per month, on average,” Rein said, adding that there is currently no system in place to accurately track overdoses in the county or the drugs involved.
Rein said Bourbon, Franklin, Montgomery and Perry counties have reported similar spikes.
While there was speculation that the spike may be related to counterfeit Xanax or Percocet pills that were illegally obtained, Rein said health officials believe the spike may now be related to heroin laced with synthetic fentanyl.
“Kentucky River Health District has also reported local issues with heroin laced with Carfentanil,” Rein said
Rein said while there is no local system in place to accurately track drug overdoses, the Center for Disease Control’s OD Map monitoring system, which monitors hospital emergency room visits, has shown a 20 percent increase in overdoses nationwide between January and April.
Rein said the required COVID–19 isolation may be a factor in the increase as recovering drug addicts face isolation and other issues stemming from the economic slowdown that may push them back to drugs.
“Relapsing addicts face a higher risk of overdosing because their tolerance has been affected,” Rein explained.
Rein said help is available for anyone seeking drug treatment at a reduced or no cost.
“Operation UNITE is a fantastic source,” Rein said noting the organization can provide vouchers to cover the cost of a treatment or provide contact information for facilities that will work with individuals that may qualify for Medicaid.
“The health department has a harm reduction case manager that can help find open treatment resources and walk people through the process,” Rein said, adding that those seeking such help may contact the Whitley County Health Department at 549-3380.