April 21, 2023  – “That number is still far too high,” the governor said at his weekly news conference. “One is too many. But with the opioid epidemic, we see far, far too many.”

Increased use of fentanyl — a powerful synthetic opioid — has been widely blamed as a key factor behind the state’s chronically high death toll from drug overdoses.

The issue has risen to the forefront of this year’s campaign for governor. Republican Kelly Craft says she supports the death penalty for drug traffickers found responsible for causing a Kentuckian’s fatal overdose. Craft is among 12 candidates competing for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Kentucky’s May 16 primary. Beshear, a Democrat, is seeking reelection to a second term.

Beshear pointed to a 50% increase in the number of drug treatment beds in Kentucky since he became governor in late 2019 — part of bipartisan efforts to bolster drug prevention and intervention efforts.

“We’ve worked hard to remove the cost barrier of treatment, so that every single Kentuckian who wants help today can get it,” he said. “That there is a bed available for them. Addiction spares no one.”

Much more work remains to overcome what remains a public health crisis, but the decline in overdose deaths offers some good news in the state’s fight against the opioid and drug epidemic, Beshear said.