Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The number of 911 calls reporting an overdose and patients receiving a dose of naloxone on those ambulance runs decreased significantly last year from the record high totals in 2017, according to figures provided by Louisville Emergency Medical Services.

While these overdose statistics from 2018 are very similar to the level that EMS recorded in 2016, they still far surpass the totals in Louisville as recently as 2015, which was itself a record year in the city at that time for fatal drug overdoses.

Louisville EMS received 6,688 overdose calls via 911 in 2018, which was a 12.6 percent decrease from the number of calls in the previous year.

First responders to those overdose calls last year administered 2,287 patients with naloxone, the drug used to revive the victim who has overdosed on opioids. That total is a 6.8 percent decrease from the 2,454 patients who received naloxone on an overdose call in 2017.

Statistics via Louisville EMS

This decrease in overdose runs and naloxone patients is likely to correspond with an even larger decrease in fatal drug overdoses last year, as records from the Jefferson County Coroner’s office through the first three quarters of 2018 showed a nearly 29 percent decline in such deaths compared to the previous year.

The number of patients receiving naloxone in response to overdose calls last year was only slightly higher than what EMS recorded in 2016 but was two and a half times higher than the 908 patients receiving naloxone in 2015. Overdose calls in 2018 were nearly 3 percent lower than the total in 2016 but 44 percent higher than the 4,642 calls recorded in 2015.

Statistics via Louisville EMS, from January 2015 through December 2018

The number of patients recorded by EMS who received naloxone in response to an overdose call does not include those who were treated by suburban fire and ambulance services, so the countywide figure is likely larger.

Dr. Sarah Moyer, director of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness and the city’s chief health strategist, told Insider last month that while it was promising to see fatal and nonfatal overdoses trending downward in 2018, “we still have a lot of work to do,” citing the Fischer administration’s two-year plan to respond to Louisville’s substance use crisis that was released in March.

“Fewer overdoses are good news and a measure of our progress,” said Moyer, “but we must continue to work on preventing substance use, reducing stigma, improving access to treatment and giving people in recovery the support they need to lead healthy and productive lives.”

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]