Office of the Attorney General
Attorney General Conway and Operation Unite Host Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Program In Bell County
Attorney General Jack Conway and his Keep Kentucky Kids Safe partners spoke to hundreds of students in Bell County today about the devastating consequences of prescription drug abuse. Nearly 300 students attended the prevention and awareness program at Bell County High School with Attorney General Conway, Operation UNITE, a task force created by 5th District Congressman Hal Rogers to combat drug abuse in Eastern Kentucky, and Mike Donta, an Ashland, Ky. parent who lost a son to prescription drug addiction.
“We are losing a whole generation of young people to prescription pill abuse,” said General Conway. “I want Kentucky kids to know that it is not okay to take prescription pills that are not prescribed to them. These are some of the most addictive substances in the world. They can take your mind, take your appetite and eventually take your life.”
Non-medical use or abuse of prescription drugs is the fastest growing drug problem in the United States, according to Office of National Drug Control Policy. In Kentucky, prescription drug overdose deaths have more than doubled from 403 in 2000 to nearly 980 in 2009. Today, there are more overdose deaths in the Commonwealth than traffic fatalities. The problem is particularly acute in Eastern Kentucky.
“The influx of illegal prescription pills from Florida and surrounding states has dramatically increased pill trafficking and addiction in Bell and other Eastern Kentucky counties,” said Paul Hays, Deputy Law Enforcement Director for Operation UNITE. “Operation UNITE is addressing this not only from a law enforcement standpoint, but from a treatment and education perspective. We appreciate our partnership with Attorney General Conway as we work to curb the epidemic of addiction and create a brighter future for our children.”
Today’s program in Bell County is part of statewide initiative General Conway launched last fall 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 mothers who lost their daughters to prescription drug overdoses, Lynn Kissick and Dr. Karen Shay.
General Conway next visits Christian County High School and Madisonville North Hopkins High on April 22. Prevention programs are also planned in Davies, Warren and Floyd counties this spring.
With easy access to prescription medications, General Conway and his partners are urging parents to monitor and secure prescription pills in their homes and safely dispose of old or unneeded pills by utilizing pill collection sites and participating in national prescription drug “take-back” days. The next “take-back” initiative is on April 30, 2011 from 10 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Shortly after taking office, General Conway met with Congressman Rogers to discuss drug diversion efforts and possible partnerships. In 2008, Operation UNITE named General Conway a “Soaring Eagle” for his commitment to drug enforcement. Investigators from the Attorney General’s office are also assigned to Operation UNITE.
Despite budget cuts of roughly 30%, General Conway has increased investigations into illegal prescription drug diversion, doctor shopping, overprescribing physicians and illegal out-of-state pharmacies through creation of Kentucky’s only statewide Prescription Drug Diversion Task Force. Launched in 2009 with a $50,000 grant from NADDI, the task force worked closely with Operation UNITE and other agencies in the largest prescription drug round-up in Kentucky’s history.
In February 2011, General Conway’s Drug Diversion Task Force executed search warrants at two pain clinics and two residences in Johnson County as part of a year-long investigation into overprescribing physicians.
For more information on General Conway’s efforts to combat prescription drug abuse, please visit http://ag.ky.gov/rxabuse.htm.