Attorney General Jack Conway has taken his Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program to Mercer County, sharing his message about the dangers of prescription drug abuse and heroin with approximately 680 students at King Middle School. General Conway was joined in Mercer County by Mike Donta, a concerned parent whose son died in 2010 after a long battle with prescription drug addiction.
"These are some of the most addictive substances on the planet and they are responsible for more deaths in Kentucky than traffic accidents," General Conway said. "I’m here to tell you that two things are going to happen if you take pills that aren’t intended for you -- you’ll end up in jail or in the grave."
Nationally, prescription painkillers are the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. In 2012, 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. Additionally, a report by the nonprofit 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.
"My son made a choice to abuse prescription drugs and it cost him his life," Donta said. "By sharing his story I hope I can persuade and encourage kids to make better decisions."
Heroin is now rapidly replacing prescription painkillers as the drug of choice in many parts of Kentucky. According to the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, statewide heroin overdose deaths increased by 650 percent in 2012. In December, General Conway, along with Sen. Katie Stine and Rep. John Tilley, announced bipartisan legislation that was created to stop this disturbing trend. The bill, which was introduced during the 2014 regular session of the Kentucky General Assembly, increases punishment for heroin traffickers, promotes treatment for addicts, and increases public awareness and education.
"Heroin is an opiate and it mimics the same high people get from crushing and injecting opioid painkillers," General Conway said. "While illegally obtained prescription drugs have become more expensive and harder to get, the price and difficulty of obtaining heroin have dropped.
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 approximately 40,000 students, teachers and parents to the dangers of abusing prescription drugs and heroin.
"The safety of our students is our number one priority at our school," said Terry Gordon, principal at King Middle School. "Part of that responsibility includes educating our students in the area of drug and alcohol abuse, and King Middle School has partnered with local law enforcement for a number of years in this process. The DARE program is part of our sixth-grade curriculum. Next year, a similar program will be implemented in eighth grade. We are grateful the Attorney General has made educating students about prescription drug abuse and heroin a top priority."
Kentucky continues to make 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.
Additionally, a recent 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.
Photo is available here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kyoag/12822117384/
Prescription Drug Diversion Efforts
Attorney 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 450 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 more than half of the state’s pain management clinics have closed their doors.
In January 2014, General Conway announced that more than $32 million recovered in settlements with two pharmaceutical companies is being used throughout Kentucky to expand substance abuse treatment, including opiate addictions. The settlement funds will create a new treatment center for adults, treatment scholarships, a grant program for new juvenile treatment beds and/or centers, and expanded services for juveniles.
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 ag.ky.gov/rxabuse.