Gov. Matt Bevin is urging all Kentuckians to help beat back the opioid epidemic with a new public awareness campaign that highlights the dangers of opioid abuse and offers information on drug treatment and naloxone.
The campaign, launching this week, combines web content with statewide advertising to drive home a simple message: “Don’t Let Them Die.” The theme encourages Kentuckians to recognize the inherent value of human life – even in the grip of addiction – and take proactive steps to help their friends, family and communities overcome this crisis.
One way all Kentuckians can help: Learn about the risk of opioid abuse and spread the word.
“We don’t have the luxury of pretending there isn’t a problem,” said Gov. Bevin. “Every life is worth saving. There is not a person we would not want to see redeemed and removed from this addiction, and it is up to all of us to work together and find solutions.”
Lethal overdoses claimed more than 1,400 lives in Kentucky last year, a 7.4 percent increase from 2015. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times more potent than heroin, was a factor in 623 deaths, while heroin contributed to 456 deaths.
The highest number of fatalities occurred among people ages 35 to 44, followed by ages 45 to 54. Kentucky currently has the third highest overdose rate in the country, and a recent study showed that 80 percent of heroin users start with prescription opioids.
“Behind each number is a suffering soul and a wounded family that has often struggled with substance abuse for decades,” said Kentucky Justice Secretary John Tilley. “However, we also hear stories almost every day of hope and recovery. That’s why it’s essential that every Kentuckian joins this battle to preserve life. With the right support and resources, we know recovery is possible.”
As part of the campaign, radio and television ads that feature audio from a harrowing 911 call will begin airing statewide over the next week. The anguished voice on the phone belongs to Nikki Strunck, a mother from Richmond, Ky. who discovered her son, Brendan, dying from an overdose in January 2016.
While the initial ad seeks to raise awareness about the dangers of opioids and the human toll of addiction, future ads are expected to focus on resources and treatment. The 30-second spots were purchased through the Public Education Partnership Program, which is administered by the Kentucky Broadcasters Association.
Along with advertising, the governor’s office has established www.DontLetThemDie.com, a website with information about opioids, treatment and the overdose antidote, naloxone. Officials plan to continue updating the website as new initiatives are announced.