At the National Prescription Drug Abuse Summit in Orlando Tuesday, Gov. Steve Beshear called for states and the federal government to develop aggressive shared tactics to thwart the devastating scourge of prescription drug abuse. He also encouraged Kentucky legislators to keep the state on the leading edge of effective anti-drug strategies by passing a broad prescription drug bill on the final day of the legislative session this week.
“We need the medical community, treatment facilities, education, the business sector, law enforcement, advocates, insurance industry, workers’ comp officials, and elected officials on the local, state and federal levels to step up, to listen and to be heard. Collaboration and cooperation are essential,” Beshear said in a press release issued by his office. “No state or community is an island. It will take all of us – working across geographical and agency borders – to make headway against prescription drug abuse.”
The three-day summit, sponsored by Kentucky-based Project UNITE, featured 100 leaders and experts from across the country who shared techniques to reduce the spread of abuse of prescription drugs. Speakers included Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske, Rep. Hal Rogers, and Centers for Disease Control Principal Deputy Director Ileana Arias. The summit is expected to attract about 700 attendees.
“I believe we are building a critical mass of urgency that includes law enforcement, government, the medical community, treatment and education,” Beshear said. “It’s heartening that this issue is getting the attention it deserves, but the fact remains that thousands of our families and communities are unraveling because of these drugs. The need for a broad-based response is urgent.”
One key piece of Kentucky legislation, House Bill 4 (HB 4) offers numerous tools to prevent or reduce prescription drug abuse, and Beshear called on the Kentucky legislature to pass the bill on the final day of session Thursday.
Among other things, HB 4 would require pain management clinics to be owned by a licensed medical practitioner, mandate participation in KASPER, Kentucky’s successful electronic prescription monitoring program, and require immediate investigation of prescribing complaints.
Beshear outlined the numerous steps that his administration already has implemented to assist law enforcement and communities, including:
-the creation of an Interstate Prescription Drug Task Force with officials from Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia to better identify those who exploit state borders in order to abuse, misuse or divert prescription drugs;
-a partnership with the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy and Operation UNITE to use a federal grant to hold summits that will better educate physicians and dispensers, many of whom remain unaware of the danger of these drugs and how quickly legitimate use morphs into addiction;
-Beshear’s testimony to Congress last spring regarding the harrowing impact of the so-called “pill pipeline” from Florida, which allowed unscrupulous prescribers to provide huge numbers of painkillers without oversight to prescription drug addicts or dealers from surrounding states. At the urging of Beshear and other state and federal officials, Florida Gov. Rick Scott implemented a prescription drug monitoring program in that state, which will significantly reduce the number of addiction-feeding prescriptions from Florida to users in other states; and
-the creation of a panel of health professionals to develop criteria for Kentucky’s prescription monitoring program in order to identify suspicious drug-prescribing habits. These guidelines will help separate the vast majority of physicians responding to legitimate patient needs from those few pill pushers in white coats.
Beshear’s biennial budget, approved by the General Assembly, also included additional resources for substance-abuse treatment.
Beshear will return to Frankfort Tuesday afternoon.