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Huntington breaks overdose record from 2016

Overdose rates have consistently risen since 2014. (WCHS/WVAH)

The total number of overdoses in Cabell County in 2017 reached 1,250 in late August beating last year's record total with more than four months left.

It was a somber number, but not surprising to Huntington residents like Mary Kelly.

"I'm surprised that it's not more than that."

She said her 13th street neighborhood is plagued by drugs, and, while it was quiet Thursday afternoon, the block erupts into activity every night.

"You see them every day,” Kelly said, “young girls fighting each other, young girls fighting their parents over drugs more or less."

The mark of 1,250 overdoses was a more than 450% increase from 2014's total of 272.

That massive increase has been stretching emergency crews to the max.

"It's difficult because we're doing more with less," Huntington Fire Chief Jan Rader said.

Rader said more than a quarter of calls they take are for overdoses.

"That's very different from what we experienced 10 years ago, and even one year ago. We haven't plateaued yet," she said.

Groups from every angle have tried to fight back.

Recovery groups have opened more beds, the health department started a needle exchange program, Cabell E.M.S. doubled the naloxone they carry, and Huntington City Council has been trying to establish emergency response teams and punish property owners who consistently rent to drug offenders.

Still the overdose rates continue to rise.

No one has found a solution.

"That's the million dollar question right now," Rader said.

People like Mary Kelly have been losing hope.

"Confidence? No. Wishful thinking? Yes,” Kelly said. “Neighbors are starting to ignore it. Just let it happen."

If overdoses continued at the same rate Cabell County was on pace to hit just below 1,900 overdoses for the year.

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