Maps created by Pat Smith of the Civic Data Alliance

A resident from nearly every ZIP code within Louisville died from an accidental drug overdose in 2017, with the 40215 ZIP code stretching from Churchill Downs south to the Beechmont neighborhood being hit the hardest, according to records from the Jefferson County Coroner’s office.

As reported by Insider Louisville this week, these coroner records show that 2017 was another record-high year for accidental drug overdose deaths in the city, with the potential to surpass 400 once the office’s open cases from December are closed. This amounted to an 87 percent increase in such deaths over the past two years in Louisville, as the region’s opioid epidemic — now driven by fentanyl — continues to accelerate.

While the southwestern part of the county had the highest number of residents die of a drug overdose, when factoring in population much of the area surrounding downtown was also the hardest hit, particularly the neighborhoods stretching from Portland in the northwest through Old Louisville and into Germantown and the Highlands.

In the 40215 ZIP code, 27 residents died of a drug overdose, second only to the 30 deaths in the 40216 ZIP code neighboring it to the west, stretching from Shively down to Lower Hunters Trace. However, when factoring in the number of deaths per 10,000 residents in each of the ZIP codes, the 12.8 in 40215 was nearly 50 percent highest than the next-highest area.

Maps created by Pat Smith of the Civic Data Alliance

When factoring in the location of overdose deaths instead of just the residence of the victims, 40215 also far surpassed any other ZIP code, with 51 deaths occurring in that area. Only the 40202 ZIP code that includes the downtown hospitals totaled more than half of that amount with 39 deaths, despite only three deaths of residents who lived downtown. The 40215 ZIP code also includes the Sts. Mary & Elizabeth Hospital.

These alarming findings about the opioid crisis in the Churchill Downs and Beechmont area echo an Insider report from last year, which found that Louisville first responders on overdose runs had administered naloxone to more overdose victims in the 40215 ZIP code than any other part of the city.

Factoring in population, the 40118 ZIP code including Fairdale in the far south of the county had the second-highest death rate per 10,000 people of 8.6 — 8 residents total — followed by ZIP codes that surround the downtown area.

Sixteen residents of the 40203 ZIP code — stretching from the eastern edge of Portland through Russell, Limerick, Old Louisville and Smoketown — died of an overdose in 2017, at a rate of 8.4. While much of this area is African-American and low-income, the 40204 ZIP code just to its east — encompassing Germantown and the Highlands — had the same 8.4 death rate, despite its residents being mostly white and having a much higher median income.

While considerably more residents of the western half of the county died of an overdose, some ZIP codes in the east did stand out for having a high death rate nearing four per 10,000 residents, such as 40223 and 40243, encompassing Anchorage and Middletown, and 40291, stretching from the southern part of Jeffersontown down to Bullitt County.

The coroner’s records show that 18 of the fatal overdose victims in Louisville were homeless and 45 lived outside of Jefferson County, with most of those victims living in the neighboring counties.

Special thanks to Pat Smith, co-founder of Civic Data Alliance, for designing the maps used in this article.

Joe Sonka
Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]