Owensboro is a home rule-class city and is the county seat of Daviess County, Kentucky. Population-wise, it is the fourth-largest city in the state of Kentucky.
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Owensboro is located on U.S. Route 60, about 107 miles southwest of Louisville. The 2015 population of Owensboro was just over 59,000 while the entire metropolitan population—which includes Daviess, Hancock, and McLean counties—was estimated at 116,500.
Owensboro is located at the bend of the Ohio River in the western part of the state. It is considered by many to be the culinary and cultural hub of western Kentucky, with a wide variety of locally-owned restaurants and a thriving arts community.
The self-proclaimed “BBQ Capital of the world,” Owensboro hosts more than 20 annual festivals, including the world-famous International Bar-B-Q Festival, ROMP bluegrass music festival, Big O Music Fest and the Western Kentucky Botanical Garden Daylily Festival. It is also home to the International Bluegrass Music Museum, scheduled to open in October 2018.
Evidence of Native American settlement in the Owensboro area dates back 12,000 years. Following a series of failed uprisings, however, the last Shawnee were forced to vacate the area by the end of the 18th century.
Owensboro is home to two private, four-year colleges, Brescia University, and Kentucky Wesleyan College, as well as one public community college in Owensboro Community and Technical College. Daymar College has a second campus located in Owensboro, as does Western Kentucky University.
The top employers of the Owensboro metropolitan area include Owensboro Medical Health System Hospital, U.S. Bank Home Mortgage, Titan Contracting, Specialty Foods Group, household products conglomerate Unilever, and Glenmore Distilleries.
The median income for a household in the city as of 2016 was $37,289 while the median income for a family was $41,333. Males had a median income of $33,429 versus $21,457 for females. The per capita income for the city was $21,183. About 12 percent of families and 18 percent of the total population fell below the poverty line, including 21 percent of those under age 18 and 12 percent of those 65 and over.
The racial breakdown of Daviess County is 91 percent White, 5 percent Black or African American, and 3 percent Hispanic or Latino.
Owensboro and Kentucky’s Opioid Epidemic
Substance abuse, particularly the abuse of prescription drugs, along with heroin and illicit fentanyl that together have come to be known as “the opioid epidemic,” remains one of the most critical public health crises facing Kentucky. In the past decade, the number of Kentuckians who have died from drug overdose has climbed to more than 1,500 per year. This loss of life has exacted a devastating toll on families, communities, social services, and economic growth.
In an effort to reverse the trend, the Commonwealth has implemented a number of program and policy initiatives, such as the statewide use of prescription drug monitoring programs and expanded the availability of substance abuse treatment opportunities. One bill passed in the 2017 session limited opioid prescriptions for acute pain to a three-day supply, with certain exceptions. The law also increased penalties for trafficking in heroin, fentanyl, and fentanyl analogs.
Adults getting prescriptions for pain medication dropped significantly in Western Kentucky from 2011 to 2017, according to a Kentucky Health Issues Poll report released in the spring of 2018. While more than half of Western Kentucky adults asked in 2011 said they were prescribed pain pills within the last five years, that percentage dropped to 35 percent in 2017.
Daviess County saw 11 deaths by overdose in 2017. The county also saw 2,732 drug arrests per 100,000 residents. (Davies County’s total residential population is just over 100,000.)
According to local reports, 119 people were treated in the Owensboro Health Regional Hospital Emergency Department for drug overdoses in 2016. The drugs involved included opioids and synthetic drugs. Of the overdose cases coming into the emergency department, the majority are caused by opioids and amphetamines.
Methamphetamine is still the dominant street drug in Daviess County, but heroin overdose and opioid overdose deaths are not uncommon. Of course, other parts of the state have been hit worse by the opioid epidemic.