Thursday, 05 29, 2014
Deputy Communications Director
Attorney General Jack Conway, along with the Prosecutors Advisory Council (PAC), the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI), and two concerned parents who have lost children to prescription drug abuse, today announced the recipients of the “Sarah Shay and Michael Donta Memorial Scholarships for Hope and Healing.” Kimberly Barrett, a graduate of Owsley County High School, and Josh Hollan, a graduate of Hazard High School, were selected to receive the $1,500 scholarships, which were created last year to help graduating high school students whose lives have been impacted by prescription drug abuse. Kimberly plans to attend the University of Kentucky, and Josh plans to attend Hazard Community & Technical College.
“Kimberly and Josh have embraced positive lifestyles, excelling in both their personal and academic lives, despite seeing firsthand the devastating consequences of prescription drug abuse,” Attorney General Conway said. “Their scholarship essays serve as vivid reminders of the heavy toll that prescription drugs are taking on families across Kentucky. I commend Kimberly and Josh on their hard work and wish them only the best as they pursue their college degrees. They are writing a new chapter for their families and helping stop the cycle of addiction.”
The scholarships are in memory of 19-year-old Sarah Shay and 24-year-old Michael Donta. Shay, of Morehead, Ky., died of a prescription drug overdose in 2006. Donta, of Ashland, Ky., lost his battle with prescription painkiller abuse in 2010. Sarah and Michael’s parents, Dr. Karen Shay and Mike Donta, now travel across Kentucky with Attorney General Conway to help educate middle and high school students about the dangers of prescription drug abuse and heroin. Through the Attorney General’s Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program, General Conway and his partners have shared this important message with approximately 40,000 students, teachers, and parents in Kentucky.
“I am humbled and honored to help present these scholarships to two very deserving students,” Donta said. “They have shown us that there’s hope for those whose lives have been affected by addiction. Although Kimberly and Josh were not personally addicted to prescription drugs, their lives were interrupted by the destructive actions of others. They were able to overcome this and have demonstrated their ability to heal and move forward in a positive way.”
“I am so pleased that this wonderful gift will help make a difference in the lives of two Kentucky teens who have been impacted by the effects of prescription drug abuse, and I admire the strength and courage of each and every applicant who shared his or her story with us,” Shay said. “This scholarship program, named in memory of my daughter and Mike’s son, is just one more way we can continue to raise awareness about the dangerous consequences of drug abuse and addiction.”
The Office of the Attorney General and PAC were able to offer these scholarships thanks to the generosity of NADDI and private donations from Sarah’s and Michael’s families.
One “Sarah Shay Memorial Scholarship” and one “Michael Donta Memorial Scholarship” will be awarded each year to a graduating high school female and male, who meet the scholarship criteria, to put toward postsecondary education expenses.
A photo from the event is available here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kyoag/14298949394/.
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.
You can follow Attorney General Conway on Twitter @kyoag, visit the Attorney General’s Facebook page or view videos on our YouTube channel.