Gov. Steve Beshear Monday joined Attorney General Jack Conway, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers, Sen. Jimmy Higdon and other legislators to highlight broad prescription drug legislation designed to reduce the destructive impact of prescription drug abuse on Kentucky families. Multiple legislators have joined the effort by sponsoring legislation, all of which is targeted to help fight prescription drug abuse.
The leaders emphasized that in spite of a heavy legislative agenda, the issue of prescription drug abuse is a high priority. Beshear explained in a press release from his office that the many efforts underway to fight the abuse of controlled substances should not be overlooked in this session.
“Battling the scourge of prescription drug abuse requires dynamic, nimble policies and coordination of efforts, from law enforcement to recovery centers, from computer assisted investigations to citizen tipsters,” Beshear said. “The legislation under consideration in the General Assembly will allow us to better coordinate our efforts for a safer Kentucky.”
“Our office has been on the front lines of this issue. I’ve launched investigations into overprescribing doctors and prescription pill traffickers, and travelled the Commonwealth educating Kentucky kids about the dangers of prescription pill abuse. Legislation has been filed that would allow our office and other law enforcement agencies to have increased access to KASPER data that will allow us to spot trends and make our investigations more targeted and efficient,” Conway said. “This is an issue that affects every community and family in Kentucky, and I am confident these bills will receive bipartisan support because we must act now.”
House Bill 4, sponsored by Stumbo, would significantly expand the reach of the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting (KASPER) by requiring all prescription providers to register and use the system. The bill also creates new standards for information sharing among licensure boards and investigators, and requires regular data review of KASPER reports to root out unusually high prescribing rates for further investigation.
“Prescription drug abuse has long been a problem here in Kentucky, but in recent years it has reached epidemic proportions. House Bill 4 goes to the heart of the epidemic by giving law enforcement more tools to pinpoint the sources of the illegal drugs and stop them,” Stumbo said in the press release. “It also calls on the medical licensure boards to do their part to make sure that doctors abusing their privileges are stopped as well. This legislation provides a multi-pronged approach across all three branches of government, and it transcends politics. It is the most important thing we can do to protect Kentucky families.”
Senate Bill 42, sponsored by Higdon, focuses on pain management clinics. The bill would require that these facilities be owned by a physician and properly licensed. SB 42 also creates new rules for who can work at pain management clinics and offers clear regulations related to quality management and inspection.
“The epidemic that is prescription drug abuse in Kentucky is not just an addiction problem, it is a systemic problem that jeopardizes economic stability, destroys families, and ruins lives,” Stivers said. “It is incumbent that we, as lawmakers, ensure any dangerous controlled substances are administered for legitimate purposes and in reasonable amounts.”
Other legislation may still be introduced, and leaders encouraged that every bill be carefully considered.
Education, Interstate Cooperation Efforts Continue
Last fall, Beshear announced that the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) has awarded a $60,000 grant to Operation UNITE, a regional anti-drug initiative in 29 southern and eastern Kentucky counties. The ARC has directed the grant be used to support several educational summits across the state for physicians and dispensers.
Beshear and Conway will coordinate the summits that will be held in three locations across the state in the coming months. Operation UNITE, a state drug initiative, expects these summits will train approximately 1,000 health care providers.
Kentucky also hosted the first meeting of a new Interstate Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force this summer. The task force is composed of representatives from Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia and Tennessee and includes representatives from government, law enforcement, health care, and advocacy groups. The group is developing ways states can work together to choke off the so-called “pill pipeline” of illegal prescription drugs streaming into those states from the south.