CHARLESTON — Cabell County is projected to see a 22% to 26% drop in overdose deaths when the state's 2018 totals are finalized as data suggests West Virginia experienced a drop, or at least plateauing, of drug-related fatalities last year.
Those findings, compiled by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, were released Thursday through Gov. Jim Justice's office.
"It's incredibly heartening to see that we are finally starting to make some incredible strides in our fight against the terrible drug crisis that continues to hurt the people of our state and the entire nation," Justice said in a statement. "I've said for a long time that fixing this epidemic is the single most important thing that we absolutely need to do.
"But we still have a lot of work to do, and we need to keep pushing for more and more solutions to this terrible problem."
As a whole, West Virginia is projected to see a 6% decline in overdose deaths in 2018 compared to 2017, putting it roughly on par with 2016 in terms of total number of fatalities.
As of now, 888 overdose deaths have been confirmed in West Virginia for 2018, though historical trends indicate that number will likely settle at around 952 when all can be confirmed. All suspected overdose deaths must be confirmed by the state medical examiner's office, a process that takes nearly an entire year to finalize.
In 2017, West Virginia suffered 1,017 overdose deaths, the apparent pinnacle compared to 890 in 2016, 735 in 2015, and 629 in 2014.
Cabell County may still lead the state in overdose deaths when the totals are finalized. As of now, at least 149 overdose deaths have been confirmed in the county, while at least 145 deaths have been confirmed in Kanawha County. Berkeley (at least 73) and Raleigh (at least 54) trail in a distant third and fourth.
These top four counties alone accounted for approximately half of the state's overdose deaths in 2018, data indicate.
Like Cabell, Berkeley County is expected to see a steep decline in overdose deaths (between 17% and 22%), but Kanawha and Raleigh are likely to stay more stable or even increase. Kanawha is projected to experience between a 3% decrease up to a 9% increase, while Raleigh could see between a 10% decline up to a 3% increase.
Wayne, Putnam, Logan, Brooke and Jefferson counties are also projected to see clear decreases in overdose deaths for 2018. Boone, Greenbrier, Hampshire, Harrison, Mercer, Monongalia, Ohio, Wood and Wyoming are likely to see clear increases.
Wood County is projected to see the most dramatic increase in overdose deaths for 2018 — between 57% and 86%.