Friday, 11 08, 2013
Deputy Communications Director
Attorney General Jack Conway took his Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program to Woodford County today, sharing his prescription drug abuse prevention message with 1,250 students at Woodford County High School.
"Last year, there were about 220 million doses of the highly addictive painkiller hydrocodone dispensed in Kentucky," General Conway told the student body. "That's 51 doses of the drug for every man, woman and child in the Commonwealth. 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."
General Conway was joined in Woodford County by Mike Donta, a concerned parent who lost his son to prescription drug overdose, and Van Ingram, executive director for the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy. A report released in October 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. At the same time, heroin is rapidly replacing prescription painkillers as the drug of choice in many parts of Kentucky because it is also an opiate, cheaper to get and provides a similar high.
"Prescription drugs are often a gateway to heroin addiction," Ingram said. "Heroin mimics the same high people get from crushing and injecting opioid painkillers, and people are dying all across this state from heroin overdoses."
General Conway launched 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. To date, the Attorney General and his Keep Kentucky Kids Safe partners have held assemblies in more than three dozen schools across the Commonwealth, alerting more than 30,000 students, teachers and parents to the deadly consequences of prescription pill abuse.
"The Keep Kentucky Kids Safe message is a powerful one," said Jennifer Forgy, associate principal at Woodford County High School. "I am very appreciative of all the great work General Conway has done for our state tackling the prescription drug issue, particularly in his partnership with Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi."
General Conway reached across party lines to work with General Bondi 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.
Today's Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program comes amid clear signs that the Commonwealth 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.
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.
"We are doing everything we can in my office to fight this problem, and I know our efforts our working," General Conway said. "Together, we can stop the spread of prescription drug abuse and make Kentucky a safer place to live, work and raise a family."
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.
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.