Lexington’s heroin-related deaths more than doubled in just three years, according to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions who traveled to the city on to talk with families who lost someone in an overdose.
Sessions said that with 1,400 overdose deaths in 2016, Kentucky had the fifth highest rate of fatal overdoses in America. Of those deaths, nearly half involved fentanyl and a third were the result of heroin, Sessions said in the Thursday session.
“In 2017, Lexington-area paramedics used Narcan — which is an opioid reversal drug — every single day of the year,” Sessions said. “On an average day, they used it on seven different people.”
Sessions outlined new programs, including the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit and the Prescription Interdiction and Litigation , or PIL, task force.
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The fraud and abuse unit will analyze data on the amount of drugs prescribed and dispensed, and track “whose patients are dying of overdoses,” Sessions said.
The PIL Task Force will focus on regulatory and legislative changes that could curb the opioid crisis and potentially support ongoing state and local lawsuits against opioid manufacturers, Sessions said.
“But I am well aware that this is a very large problem, very great challenge, we cannot in Washington fight this alone,” Sessions said. “No way.”
At the roundtable, a group of local families from the U.S. Attorney’s Heroin Education Action Team told Sessions about loved ones that .
“We care about it, we want to be better, and my goal, as I’ve expressed it repeatedly around the country, we want to reduce it,” Sessions told the families.
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes released a statement Thursday in response to Sessions visit, calling for him to consider another option in fighting addiction to opioids.
“If Attorney General Sessions really wants to help end the opioid crisis, he would join in helping Kentucky legalize medical cannabis,” Grimes said in the statement. “In states where it is legal, deaths from opioid overdoses have fallen by 25 percent. Kentucky patients need an alternative to the addictive prescription opioids ravaging our state and killing our people. Medical cannabis has proven to be both an alternative and a revenue producer.”
Session was speaking Thursday before a packed room of law enforcement and criminal justice officials at the downtown office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky.
Earlier in the day, he addressed the International Association of Chiefs of Police for about 30 minutes in Nashville.
The Washington Post contributed to this article.