Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron has announced a new initiative aimed at combatting the fentanyl crisis that has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans each year.
Dubbed “Operation Fight Fentanyl,” the program will join police, lawmakers, community members, and other stakeholders to produce actionable strategies that can help reduce the number of families impacted by fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine.
“Fentanyl is flowing freely across our southern border into Kentucky and harming our friends, family, and neighbors, and it must stop,” Cameron said in a statement. “Operation Fight Fentanyl is our newest effort to attack the opioid epidemic by engaging with communities across the Commonwealth to hear how they’ve been impacted by this deadly drug and what steps we can take to beat it.”
In Kentucky, drug overdose deaths have steadily climbed over the past decade, rising from 1,101 fatalities in 2015 to 2,381 in 2022, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC).
Fentanyl has been identified in nearly 73 percent of overdose deaths in Kentucky.
A study by Millennium Health found that Kentucky has the highest percentage of fentanyl-positive drug tests in the nation. The state also leads the U.S. with the highest positivity rates for tests with both fentanyl and cocaine, methamphetamine, or heroin.
“In 2021, fentanyl was the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 18 and 45, and Kentuckians are not immune to this epidemic,” Executive Director of the Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission Bryan Hubbard said in the Attorney General’s statement. “This is a startling reality, and I am proud to work alongside Attorney General Cameron to do everything we possibly can to combat this crisis.”
The announcement of the fentanyl task force follows a separate award of $10.5 million to a pilot program that will combat the opioid epidemic by providing behavioral health treatment as an alternative to incarceration for drug addicts.
“This award of opioid settlement dollars is the first step toward bringing hope and help to Kentuckians struggling with substance use disorder,” Cameron explained. “This innovative pilot program will begin to treat this challenge as the health problem it is, and I am grateful to President Stivers, Senator Storm, and Senator Westerfield for sponsoring this bill and to members of the House and the entire General Assembly for their foresight in adopting this initiative.”
According to the CDC, more than 100,000 people per year now die from drug overdoses in the U.S., with the primary driver of that statistic being fentanyl.