Office of the Attorney General
AG Conway Takes Keep Kentucky Kids Safe Message to Henry Clay High School
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Attorney General Jack Conway took his Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program to Lexington today, sharing his message about the dangers of prescription drug abuse and heroin with students at Henry Clay High School. Joined this morning by Dr. Karen Shay, a mother from Morehead, Ky., who lost a daughter to prescription drug overdose, Attorney General Conway warned approximately 400 students about an epidemic that is devastating families across the Commonwealth.
“I care deeply about our kids and keeping them healthy and away from drugs are issues that I am passionate about,” Attorney General Conway said. “I continue to be moved and inspired by courageous parents, like Karen Shay, who travel with me with me as part of our Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program. It’s because of Karen, and the countless other parents like her who have lost children to prescription drug abuse, that we must remain vigilant in our efforts to combat this scourge.”
Nationally, drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. A report released in 2013 from the nonprofit Trust for America’s Health lists Kentucky as having the third-highest rate of fatal overdoses in the country – the vast majority from prescription pills. According to the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, in 2013, 722 deaths in Kentucky were determined to be from a drug overdose. Additionally, Fayette County saw the largest increase in overdose fatalities in 2013 than any other Kentucky county, with 86 deaths compared to 74 in 2012.
In many parts of Kentucky, heroin is now replacing prescription painkillers as the drug of choice because it is also an opiate, it’s cheaper to get and it mimics the same high people get from crushing and injecting opioid painkillers. Of the 722 drug overdose-related deaths in 2013, 230 were attributed to heroin.
“Drug abuse isn’t discriminatory,” Shay said. “It doesn’t care about race, gender, age, or social status. We make choices every day of our lives, and those choices have consequences. I’m here today to encourage you to make the right choices.”
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, Operation UNITE and concerned parents, General Conway and his partners have alerted more than 45,000 students, teachers and parents to the dangers of abusing prescription drugs and heroin.
“As attorney general, Mr. Conway has sought to use his platform to protect Kentucky consumers, protect children from sexual predators, and help address the growing drug problem in our beautiful state,” said Greg Quenon, principal at Henry Clay High School. “The drug issue impacts us all, white or black, male or female, rich or poor. The Blue Devils are excited to have Attorney General Conway speak with us about this issue, so that our students can go back out into our school and local community better informed and equipped to be leaders on this important topic.”
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 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 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 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 are being used to create a new treatment center for adults, treatment scholarships, a grant program for new adolescent treatment beds and/or centers, and expanded treatment services for adolescents.
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.