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Attorney General Conway Announces Continuation of Keep Kentucky Kids Safe Billboard Campaign

Monday, 10 28, 2013

Daniel Kemp
Deputy Communications Director
502-696-5659 (office)

Attorney General Conway and his Keep Kentucky Kids Safe partners today announced the continuation of an initiative created to warn Kentuckians about the dangers of prescription drug abuse and remind the public of the importance of monitoring, securing and safely disposing of unneeded prescription pills.

Thanks to the donation of billboard space provided by Lamar Outdoor Advertising, prescription drug abuse awareness billboards are going up across the Commonwealth for a second year. The signs feature Karen Shay and Lynn Kissick, two mothers from Morehead, Ky., who lost their daughters to prescription drug abuse. Shay and Kissick joined General Conway when he launched the first and only statewide Prescription Drug Diversion Task Force in 2009, and they have travelled with him to schools to help educate more than 25,000 students, parents and teachers about the dangers of prescription drug abuse. The billboards note that prescription pill abuse kills more Kentuckians than motor vehicle crashes.

"Prescription painkillers are the number one cause of accidental death in the United States," General Conway said. "Raising awareness about this issue through our billboard campaign is just one way we can help save lives. I appreciate Lamar Outdoor Advertising recognizing our efforts, and I am grateful for their assistance as we continue this important initiative."

A report released this month 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. Last year, 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.

Keep Kentucky Kids Safe billboards are already on display at multiple locations in Lexington and will appear in cities across Kentucky in the coming weeks.

"Lamar Advertising is very happy to partner with General Conway once again on this effort," said Mike Gibson, Sales Manager for Lamar Advertising of Lexington. "We are thankful for the opportunity and proud to help display the important message of prescription drug abuse prevention on billboards across the Commonwealth."

KEEP KENTUCKY KIDS SAFE

In 2010, General Conway launched the Keep Kentucky Kids Safe initiative with the Kentucky Justice Cabinet and its Office of Drug Control Policy, Kentucky Pharmacists Association, National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI), Operation UNITE and concerned parents. Since its launch, Attorney General Conway and his partners have warned more than 25,000 students, parents and teachers about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.

A new survey has found that the percentage of Kentucky teens misusing prescription drugs has dropped dramatically over the past four years. According to the 2012 Kentucky Incentives for Prevention School Survey, the use of prescription drugs among students without a doctor's order has decreased steadily among sixth-, eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders since 2004. The declines have been the most significant since 2008, when the Attorney General's Office, along with state lawmakers and other agencies across the Commonwealth, began intensifying efforts to fight prescription drug abuse.

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. Additionally, 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.

Additionally, the latest report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows a decline in the non-medical use of prescription pain relievers among all age groups in the Commonwealth. Kentucky is also below the national average for prescription drug abuse, for the first time.

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.

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kyoag/10538600046/