Attorney General Talks Heroin to Students in Campbell County
Attorney General Jack Conway took his Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program to Campbell County Thursday, sharing his message about the dangers of prescription drug abuse and heroin with students at Campbell County High School.
Joined by Dr. Karen Shay, a dentist from Morehead, Ky. who lost a daughter to prescription drug overdose, and Van Ingram, executive director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, Conway warned approximately 700 juniors and seniors about an epidemic that is devastating families across the Commonwealth.
"Our medicine cabinets are deadlier than our highways," Conway said. "More Kentuckians are dying from overdoses than traffic accidents, and I'm here because I refuse to lose another generation to this addiction."
Nationally, prescription painkillers are the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. A report released in October from 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. 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.
"Losing my daughter to prescription pills has left a hole in my heart that will never heal," Shay said. "By traveling the state with General Conway and sharing Sarah's story through the Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program, I hope I can prevent this heartache for other families."
Heroin is now rapidly replacing prescription painkillers as the drug of choice in many parts of Kentucky because it's also an opiate, it's cheaper to get and it mimics the same high people get from crushing and injecting opioid painkillers. Last month, 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.
"In 2012, heroin overdose deaths increased 650 percent across the Commonwealth," Conway said. "We're tackling this issue head on, and our efforts will save lives in Kentucky."
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.
"We appreciate General Conway investing in the well-being of our students," said Renee Boots, principal at Campbell County High School. "His drug abuse prevention message is a powerful one that must be heard. We know that prescription drug abuse is a serious issue, and students need to understand the consequences."
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, 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.
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 will be 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. General Conway pledged that part of the grant money will be used to expand treatment in Northern Kentucky.
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 athttp://ag.ky.gov/rxabuse