Attorney General Jack Conway took his Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program to Barren and Warren counties in October during Red Ribbon Week, warning more than 2,000 students about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.
"Prescription painkillers are some of the most addictive substances on the planet," General Conway told students at Barren County and Warren East high schools. "If taken in the wrong combination or with alcohol, you may not wake up."
A report released this month by Trust for America’s Health lists Kentucky as having the third-highest rate of fatal overdoses - the vast majority from prescription pills - in the country. Last year, there were about 220 million doses of the highly addictive painkiller hydrocodone dispensed in Kentucky. That’s 51 doses of the drug for every man, woman and child in the Commonwealth.
"With the increasing recreational use of prescription drugs by our youth, we feel General Conway’s message will help students realize the dangers associated with them," said Mark Wallace, assistant superintendent of Barren County Schools.
Since launching the Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program in 2010 with the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, Kentucky Pharmacists Association, National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI), Operation UNITE and concerned parents, General Conway and his partners have alerted more than 25,000 students, teachers and parents to the dangers of abusing prescription drugs and heroin. Heroin is rapidly replacing prescription painkillers as the drug of choice in many parts of Kentucky because it is also an opiate, it’s cheaper to get and it mimics the same high people get from crushing and injecting opioid painkillers.
"General Conway’s program falls right in line with the message of Red Ribbon Week," said Nicole Clark, principal at Warren East High School. "We want to educate our students on how to be healthy and make good choices. This includes being drug free. We have to share with them not only that they should say no to drugs, but we also have to make sure they know why they should say no and what the consequences are if they don’t."
Attorney General Conway was joined in Barren County by Jeff Scruggs, director of the Barren County Drug Task Force, and Mike Donta, a concerned parent from Ashland, Ky. who lost his son after a long battle with prescription drug abuse. Donta and Warren County Attorney Amy Milliken joined General Conway to deliver the Keep Kentucky Kids Safe message at Warren East High School.
"We want to do everything we can to educate our students about the dangerous effects these drugs can have on a person if taken inappropriately," County Attorney Milliken said. "As a graduate of Warren East High School, I am proud to stand alongside General Conway to help share his important message with these students."
Today’s program comes amid clear signs that Kentucky is making progress in its fight against the epidemic of prescription drug abuse. According to the 2012 Kentucky Incentives for Prevention School Survey, the percentage of Kentucky teens misusing prescription drugs has dropped dramatically over the past four years.
"Our public education efforts are working, but we need all students, parents and teachers to join with us to help tackle this epidemic in Kentucky," General Conway said.
Additionally, the latest report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shows the non-medical use of prescription pain relievers among all age groups in Kentucky is down and for the first time, the state is below the national average for prescription drug abuse.
As part of the Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program, students are encouraged to participate in an annual statewide video PSA contest on the risks of prescription drug abuse. Also, high school seniors whose lives have been affected by this issue can now apply for the Sarah Shay and Michael Donta Memorial Scholarships. The scholarships were created this year to help Kentucky students who have excelled in their personal and academic lives despite seeing firsthand the devastating consequences of prescription drug abuse.
Prescription Drug Diversion Efforts General Conway launched Kentucky’s first and only statewide Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force in August of 2009. The task force has been involved in more than 430 prescription drug diversion investigations, including Operation Flamingo Road, the state’s largest prescription drug bust that resulted in the arrest of more than 500 people.
General Conway also worked closely with Governor Beshear, House Speaker Stumbo, Senate President Stivers and other lawmakers to win passage of landmark legislation in 2012 to prevent the abuse and diversion of prescription pills in the Commonwealth. Since passage of HB 1, overdose deaths in Kentucky declined for the first time in a decade and half of the state’s pain management clinics have closed their doors.
In addition to the work being done here in the Commonwealth, Attorney General Conway reached across party lines to work with Attorney General Pam Bondi in Florida to ensure that her state implemented an electronic prescription drug monitoring system similar to Kentucky’s KASPER system. Together they have worked to shut down the pill pipeline between Florida and Kentucky and to see that all 50 states have prescription drug monitoring programs in place and that all of the programs can share data across state lines. General Conway and General Bondi serve as co-chairs of the National Association of Attorneys General Substance Abuse Committee.
Faces of Prescription Drug Abuse Attorney General Conway invites Kentuckians of all ages to share their stories about how prescription drug addiction has affected their families and communities through his "Faces of Prescription Drug Abuse" video series. Videos may be submitted by visiting the Attorney General’s website at http://ag.ky.gov/rxabuse.
You can follow Attorney General Conway on Twitter @kyoag, visit the Attorney General’s Facebook page or view videos on our YouTube channel.