FRANKFORT — Attorney General Jack Conway and his Keep Kentucky Kids Safe partners announced Thursday the launch of a new initiative to warn Kentuckians about the dangers of prescription drug abuse and to remind the public of the importance of monitoring, securing and safely disposing of unneeded prescription pills.
With the generosity of the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI), a key partner in General Conway’s Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program, and Lamar Outdoor Advertising, prescription drug abuse awareness billboards are going up across the Commonwealth.
“We are doing everything we can to warn Kentuckians about the deadly consequences of prescription drug abuse to ensure that we don’t lose another generation to this scourge,” General Conway said. “I appreciate the assistance we have received from Lamar, NADDI and our other partners as we launch this new awareness effort across the Commonwealth.”
The non-medical use or abuse of prescription pills is the fastest-growing drug problem in the United States, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy. With controlled-substance prescriptions on the rise in 118 of the state’s 120 counties, Kentucky is the fourth most medicated state in the country, according to Forbes Magazine. Last year, medical professionals in Kentucky prescribed 219 million doses of hydrocodone. That’s 50 doses for every man, woman and child in the Commonwealth.
Over the past decade, prescription drug overdose deaths have doubled, rising to nearly 1,000 a year. More people in Kentucky are dying from overdoses than traffic accidents.
“Lamar Advertising is proud to partner with General Conway on this very important initiative to prevent Prescription Drug Abuse,” said Mike Gibson, Sales Manager for Lamar Lexington. “Lamar will display this urgent message in more than a dozen cities across Kentucky immediately.”
Keep Kentucky Kids Safe billboards are already on display at multiple locations in Lexington and will appear in Danville, Frankfort, Somerset, Winchester, Morehead, London, Liberty, Louisville, Richmond, Paducah, Owensboro and Covington in the coming weeks.
“The Keep Kentucky Kids Safe campaign builds on the longstanding partnership between NADDI and the Attorney General’s Office,” said Paula York, NADDI of Kentucky President. “NADDI will continue to work with General Conway and his staff to educate law enforcement, healthcare professionals, as well as Kentucky families, about the dangers of prescription drug abuse and the importance of monitoring and securing prescription pills in the home.”
In 2010, General Conway joined with the parents of overdose victims, the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, NADDI, Operation UNITE and the Kentucky Pharmacists Association to launch the Keep Kentucky Kids Safe statewide education and awareness initiative. To date, General Conway and his partners have warned more than 10,000 middle and high school students in nearly two dozen counties about the risks associated with 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 perils of prescription drug abuse. Additionally, Attorney General Conway and his staff will raise awareness about prescription drug abuse at this year’s Kentucky State Fair. The Attorney General’s booth will be in the law enforcement section of the South Wing.
In addition to his public awareness efforts, Attorney General Conway worked closely with Governor Beshear, House Speaker Stumbo and other lawmakers to win passage of landmark legislation to prevent the abuse and diversion of prescription pills in the Commonwealth. Earlier this week, General Conway joined the Governor, law enforcement and representatives from medical licensure boards to discuss the recent implementation of House Bill 1 and how it can save lives by cracking down on illegal pill mills and expansion of the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting system (KASPER).
In 2009, Attorney General Conway launched Kentucky’s first and only statewide Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force. The task force has been involved in more than 130 prescription drug diversion investigations, including Operation Flamingo Road, the state’s largest prescription drug bust that resulted in the arrests of more than 500 people.
General Conway also reached across party lines to work with Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi to see that her state implemented an electronic prescription drug monitoring system similar to Kentucky’s KASPER system. The two continue to work closely to combat prescription drug abuse in their respective states and nationally. Generals Conway and Bondi are co-chairing the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) Substance Abuse Committee and are committed to ensuring that all 50 states have prescription drug monitoring programs and that all of the programs can share data across state lines.
Additionally, the Attorney General’s office is a member of the Interstate Prescription Drug Task Force that is working with neighboring states, like Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia, to shut down the prescription drug pipeline into Kentucky.
For more information on General Conway’s drug diversion efforts and the Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program, please visit http://ag.ky.gov/rxabuse .