On the same day the federal government reported a decrease in drug overdose deaths for the first time in nearly three decades, Lyon County officials were on the offensive against ODs just days after four local overdose deaths in as many days.
Christian County Health Department offered Narcan training last Thursday in Eddyville and distributed free doses of the OD-reversing drug to scores of participants. The effort was led by Kayla Bebout, a Lyon County resident and public health director at the Hopkinsville-based agency who wanted to bring the life-saving opportunity to her home community.
"These issues going on here in Lyon County are very near and dear to my heart," she said.
In the wake of last month's deadly string of overdoses, Bebout reached out to local leaders, and within days had the training scheduled. Together with Pennyrile District Health Department in Eddyville and Lyon County Sheriff's Department, Bebout was able to reach more than 125 people with Narcan and training necessary to administer the primary drug used to reverse opioid overdoses.
"To be honest, I feel like anybody is at risk for witnessing an overdose," Bebout told those gathered last week at the Lyon County Convention Center.
Among those attending training were a number of Kentucky Department of Corrections employees and workers with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Local city and county local governments also sent representatives to the training. There were people from all walks of life and from several surrounding communities.
"Wherever you live or work," Bebout said, "this is a very essential thing."
Jim Tolley, director of Pennyrile District Health Department, was also on hand as were several other members of the local agency to help distribute boxes of Narcan containing two doses of the nasal spray. The training answered questions on the minds of many in attendance.
Narcan is not a controlled substance and can be administered by anyone in possession of the overdose-counteracting drug. And Kentucky's Good Samaritan laws legally protect those who may deliver the drug to a suspected overdose victim, though Narcan should not harm an unresponsive person no matter the cause.
"If you don't know, do it anyway," Bebout advised.
Tolley said it is a bit of a misnomer that only abusers can overdose. Opioids, if taken with other drugs, can unwittingly lead to an overdose. And simply forgetting and overlapping doses of an opioid painkiller can lead to an OD.
Drug overdoses kill more Americans each year than motor vehicle accidents.
Early Thursday, though, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released official 2018 mortality statistics that showed drug overdose deaths declined for the first time in 29 years.
Sheriff Brent White credits that to awareness, prevention and education, just like what was offered here last week.
Narcan, which is carried by all law enforcement officers in the county and City of Eddyville and is also part of that mix.
Narcan, though, is not available directly through Pennyrile District Health Department or its respective health centers in the five counties of the district, which includes Lyon, Caldwell, Crittenden, Livingston and Trigg.
That's because Tolley has not yet been able to secure funding to provide the training and doses. Part of that reason, he said, is because of a resistance by local boards of health to offer needle exchange programs for injecting drug users.
"Money for this is contingent upon needle exchange programs," he said of Narcan training.
However, Tolley said he is trying to find a work-around so that his health centers can offer the overdose drug. Meantime, he will continue to work with Bebout to provide local Narcan training two or three more times this year.