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February 12, 2013

Coroner, EMS see spike in heroin use in the county

MADISON COUNTY — Heroin, a drug much cheaper than many pain pills, is starting to become a problem for Madison County, Coroner and EMS Director Jimmy Cornelison told the Madison County Fiscal Court on Tuesday.

“It’s alarming,” Carlos Coyle, assistant EMS director said after the meeting.

The local EMS has treated more heroin overdoses in the past three or four months than ever before, Coyle said. “There for a while, we never saw heroin in our county, but it’s here now.”

Although the state “pill-mill” law has cut down on prescription drug abuse by closing some questionable clinics and tightening prescription rules, “there’s always a replacement (drug),” Coyle said. “It’s hard to get your arms around the entire problem.”

Cornelison speculated that the economic downturn could have something do with preference for the cheaper drug.

“I’m telling you, we’re going to see a major impact with heroin in our county,” he said.

Later in the meeting, Magistrate Roger Barger said drugs affect a community in ways people do not realize.

He told a story about a small factory in the southeastern part of the county that had the opportunity to add 65 jobs, but the company found only 10 qualified people who could pass a drug test.

“That factory lost those 65 jobs, and it went to another state,” Barger said. “You can’t grow the economy with the drug situation like it is, and it’s not getting any better.”

Judge-Executive Kent Clark said he went to a regional economic development summit in Lexington last week attended by 11 county judges and 15 mayors, and “the biggest topic was drugs.”

“There’s no quick fix. It’s something we hope doesn’t get worse, but it probably is ― this is something we all have to address,” Clark added.

Another consequence of the poor economy is the number of uninsured people who need medical care, Cornelison said. “You’d be surprised how many people we go to pick up in the ambulance who tell us they can’t go because they don’t have health insurance.”

“We say, ‘Come on, let’s go, it doesn’t make any difference,’” he said. “But people are concerned about that.”

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