Monday, 12 10, 2012
Shelley Catharine Johnson
Deputy Communications Director
Speaking to more than 1,000 9th and 10th graders at Henderson County High School today, Attorney General Jack Conway and his Keep Kentucky Kids Safe partners issued an urgent warning about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.
"One of two things is going to happen if you abuse prescription drugs," General Conway said. "You're either going to end up in jail or dead. Even though they are prescribed by a doctor, prescription medications can kill you if taken in the wrong combination or mixed with other substances."
General Conway was joined today by Van Ingram, Executive Director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, and Dr. Karen Shay, a Morehead, Ky. dentist whose daughter, Sarah, died from a prescription drug overdose in 2006.
"By sharing Sarah's story and traveling with Attorney General Conway through the Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program, I hope I can prevent another family from experiencing the heartache my family felt after losing Sarah to a prescription drug overdose. That pain will never go away."
General Conway launched the Keep Kentucky Kids Safe statewide awareness initiative in 2010 in partnership with the Kentucky Justice Cabinet and its Office of Drug Control Policy, Kentucky Pharmacists Association, National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI), Operation UNITE, Dr. Shay and concerned parent Lynn Kissick, whose daughter, Savannah, also died from a prescription drug overdose.
Since its launch, additional parents, like Mike Donta of Ashland, Ky., have joined the Keep Kentucky Kids Safe initiative. Donta's son, Michael, died in 2010 after a long battle with prescription drug abuse. To date, the partners have alerted nearly 20,000 middle and high school students about the devastating consequences of prescription drug abuse.
"It is not that drugs are all bad; what is truly bad is the ignorance of the people who misuse and abuse them," said Dr. Thomas Richey, Superintendent for Henderson County Schools. "Attorney General Conway has a very important message for our young people and one that merits the attention of schools and students on the perils of use and abuse."
With more than 1,000 deaths each year, more Kentuckians now die from prescription drug overdoses than traffic accidents. In 2011, doctors in Kentucky prescribed more than 219 million doses of the hydrocodone, one of the drugs most commonly found in overdose victims. That equates to about 50 doses for every man, woman and child in Kentucky. With more than 1,000 fatal overdoses a year, Kentucky's overdose death rate is the sixth-highest in the nation.
Prescription Drug Diversion Efforts
In addition to his public awareness efforts, Attorney General Conway worked closely with Governor Beshear, House Speaker Stumbo and other lawmakers to win passage of landmark legislation to prevent the abuse and diversion of prescription pills in the Commonwealth.
Since its implementation on July 20, 2012, 10 pain clinics have shut their doors, 35 physicians have been disciplined for prescribing violations and for the first time in a decade fewer controlled substances, like hydrocodone and oxycodone, are being prescribed in the Commonwealth.
General Conway also continues to work closely with local law enforcement through the statewide Prescription Drug Diversion Task Force he launched in 2009 to crack down on overprescribing physicians, those trafficking in prescription pills and pill mills. The task force has been involved in more than 130 prescription drug diversion investigations, including Operation Flamingo Road, the state's largest prescription drug bust that resulted in the arrests of more than 500 people.
General Conway also reached across party lines to work with Florida's Attorney General Pam Bondi to ensure that her state implemented an electronic prescription drug monitoring system similar to Kentucky's KASPER system. The two continue to work closely to combat prescription drug abuse in their respective states and nationally. Generals Conway and Bondi are co-chairing the National Association of Attorneys General's (NAAG) Substance Abuse Committee and are committed to ensuring that all 50 states have prescription drug monitoring programs and that all of the programs can share data across state lines. They've also testified together in front of Congress about the explosion of prescription drug abuse.
Additionally, the Attorney General's office is a member of the Interstate Prescription Drug Task Force that is working with neighboring states, like Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia, to shut down the prescription drug pipeline into Kentucky.
For more information on General Conway's drug diversion efforts or the Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program, please visit http://ag.ky.gov/rxabuse/ .