Five Letcher County Middle School students on Tuesday were involved in an incident involving methamphetamine and one was taken to the Whitesburg Appalachian Regional Hospital by ambulance, said Letcher County Schools Superintendent Denise Yonts.
Yonts said she could not comment on the student’s condition, but the student did not die. Yonts said because the students were juveniles she could not release many details. Yonts said the sheriff’s officials took the other four students into custody where they were “medically cleared.”
At no time was there an active methamphetamine lab on the campus that also includes Letcher County Elementary School, Yonts said. She said no other students were in danger and no elementary students were involved. She said the school and buses had been cleaned and that there was no methamphetamine hidden at the school building.
The Letcher County Sheriff’s office and the school’s resource officer are conducting an investigation and following through on any possible charges, Yonts said.
“If there was any, any, doubt that our county has a major meth epidemic going on right now, all doubt is gone,” said Letcher County Sheriff Mickey Stines. “We want to try to get a handle on this ... but we have to ask (the public) to be patient because we didn’t get into this problem overnight and we’re not going to solve it overnight.”
He said his office “will fight against the drug problem every single day.”
Methamphetamine use has increased statewide in recent years.
The drug — a powerful amphetamine that can lead to overdose, addiction and other, serious health problems — was detected in 29 percent of all fatal overdoses in Kentucky in 2017. That’s up 57 percent from 2016, according to the 2017 overdose fatality report from the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy.
The number of seizures along the Mexican border has also increased in recent years, as drug cartels have expanded their operations in the distribution of methamphetamine, according to a 2017 DEA report.
Stines said his office’s main focus on drug abuse and trafficking is methamphetamine, and that 85 percent of people who his office arrests on other charges, like bench warrants, are in possession of meth or meth-related paraphernalia.
“Meth is unlike any drug we’ve ever dealt with here in Letcher County,” Stines said. “It’s dangerous to everyone that is around.”
Yonts said that on Monday afternoon, the Letcher Middle School principal received information that there was possible use of methamphetamine on school buses and he immediately began an investigation. She said where students ingested the methamphetamine was under investigation.
Yonts said security had been increased at Letcher Middle School and Letcher Elementary Schools.
“Safety is our number one priority for all of our students,” said Yonts. “We take every issue seriously. We follow policies and procedures and do everything in our power to make sure that our kids are safe.”
“There’s an ongoing investigation and we are working closely with the school board to handle the situation and that the kids are safe,” Stines said. “We’ve had some comments that it’s being swept under the rug. That is incorrect. The reason we are tight-lipped about it” is that criminal investigations involving juveniles are confidential, he said.