Office of the Attorney General
Attorney General Conway & Partners Launch Statewide Prescription Drug Abuse Education Initiative
Attorney General Jack Conway today announced a new partnership with law enforcement, state government agencies, and concerned parents to educate Kentuckians about the dangers of prescription drug abuse. General Conway and representatives from the Kentucky Justice Cabinet, Kentucky Pharmacists Association, National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI) and Operation Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment and Education (UNITE) announced the public awareness initiative at a press conference at Frankfort's Western Hills High School.
"Prescription drug abuse is a problem that is devastating families in every corner of the Commonwealth," General Conway said. "With easy access to prescription medications, kids today are becoming drug addicts in their own homes. I strongly urge parents to monitor and secure prescription drugs in the home and dispose of any unneeded medications."
In 2009, there were 530 confirmed deaths in Kentucky from prescription drug overdoses. That's up from 485 in 2008. Van Ingram, Executive Director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, says what is even more startling is the growing number of teenagers who are abusing prescription drugs.
"Three years ago, one in 10 adolescents admitted they had abused prescription drugs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five teens today is using prescription drugs for non-medical purposes," said Ingram.
Beginning next month, General Conway and his partners will launch a series of presentations in Kentucky schools to educate teens about the dangers of prescription drug abuse. The first events will be held in Lexington and Northern Kentucky. The presentations will include guest speakers and students will be shown a video produced by the Office of the Attorney General that features two mothers from Morehead, Ky., Lynn Kissick and Dr. Karen Shay, who lost daughters to prescription drug overdoses. Shay, a dentist in Morehead whose daughter Sarah died from an overdose of Methadone in 2006, says she has been stunned by the severity of the problem.
"It's not just young people, it's everybody; every age. It's frightening that so many people would sell their souls for drugs," said Shay. "I look forward to working with Attorney General Conway and other agencies in alerting families to the devastating consequences of prescription drug abuse and hopefully preventing other families from enduring the pain we have suffered since losing Sarah."
The public awareness initiative will also include:
- A statewide prescription drug abuse public service announcement competition for high school students. Students will have a chance to win an iPad and other prizes as part of the competition. The winning PSAs will be featured on the Attorney General's website.
- Posters that will be distributed to pharmacies and other locations across Kentucky alerting the public to the importance of monitoring and securing prescription drugs in the home and disposing of unneeded medications.
- Participation in a statewide prescription drug take-back initiative on Sept. 25 with the DEA and other local law enforcement agencies to ensure the safe and proper disposal of unneeded medications. The locations will be featured on the Attorney General's website at www.ag.ky.gov
- Web-based Public Service Announcement on prescription drug abuse.
- Created a prescription drug abuse education page at http://ag.ky.gov/rxabuse
"We are pleased to be a part of this important initiative," said Dr. Clay Rhodes, President of the Kentucky Pharmacists Association. "Working together, we can help prevent prescription abuse and preserve access for patients who legitimately need prescription drugs to treat pain, illness and disease."
Despite unprecedented budget cuts since he took office in January 2008, Attorney General Conway has devoted additional resources to address prescription drug abuse in Kentucky. One of his first steps was to meet with 5th District Congressman Hal Rogers (R-Somerset) to forge a partnership that continues today with Operation UNITE, an agency Rogers founded in 2005. An OAG investigator is assigned to work with Operation UNITE. In 2008, General Conway received the "Soaring Eagle Award" for his commitment to drug enforcement.
In 2009, Attorney General Conway utilized grant money from NADDI to launch Kentucky's first and only statewide prescription drug abuse task force to combat illegal prescription drug trafficking, overprescribing physicians, doctor shopping and illegal out-of-state pharmacies. His task force has since participated in the largest drug round-up in Kentucky's history. Additionally, General Conway's Drug Investigations Branch has opened 365 cases, made 118 arrests and seized more than 4,400 prescription pills since January of 2008.
OAG investigators have also worked closely with the Appalachian High Intensity Drug Traffic Area (HIDTA) task force, U.S Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting (KASPER) system, administered by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, to track controlled substance prescriptions dispensed within the state.
Officials with both Operation UNITE and NADDI say they are pleased to work with General Conway's office to not only increase drug diversion efforts in Kentucky, but to spread public awareness of this very serious problem.
"I appreciate the work being done in Kentucky by the Attorney General's Office, Office of Drug Control Policy and Operation UNITE to combat prescription drug abuse," said John Burke, NADDI President. "But we also need the public to do its part, by knowing what's in their medicine cabinets and making sure it's not readily available to others."
For more information on prescription drug abuse and the statewide public awareness effort, please visit http://ag.ky.gov/rxabuse