Multi-State Task Force Targets Pill Pipeline

Aug 24, 2011

FRANKFORT – Looking to permanently shut down the growing prescription drug problem in Kentucky and neighboring states, Kentucky officials Wednesday announced the formation of an interstate task force with Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia. The Interstate Prescription Drug Task Force held its first meeting Wednesday in Ashland.

“We have a tremendous prescription drug problem in the commonwealth that we have battled for years. We do a good job from a law enforcement standpoint, but by working together, we can better identify prescribers, dispensers and patients who are exploiting our borders in order to abuse, misuse or divert prescription drugs,” Gov. Beshear said. “Our partnership with the governors and their law enforcement agencies in these neighboring states will give us an extremely effective tool to fight this abuse.”

Kentucky’s coalition on the task force includes representatives from the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, the Kentucky State Police, the Office of Drug Control Policy, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Kentucky’s Office of Homeland Security, the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas or HIDTA, Operation Unite, the governor’s office and the attorney general’s office.

“I created Kentucky’s first statewide prescription drug task force to help tackle the growing problem of abuse in our Commonwealth,” Attorney General Jack Conway said. “We’ve done a tremendous job tracking down dealers, overprescribing physicians and illegal Internet pharmacies, but we must address the problem of pills flowing into Kentucky from other states. Law enforcement officers estimate that the majority of the illegal pills in Kentucky come in across state lines. I look forward to working with our law enforcement partners in Ohio, West Virginia and Tennessee to share resources that will ultimately benefit the entire region.”

Beshear said all four states have prescription monitoring programs that are effective within their own borders. The success of the task force will hinge on its ability to develop information sharing through those programs, such as Kentucky’s All Schedule Electronic Reporting system known as KASPER.

KASPER, which has become a national model, is a statewide prescription drug monitoring program that tracks controlled substance prescriptions dispensed within the state. A KASPER report shows all scheduled prescriptions for an individual over a specified time period, as well as the prescriber and the dispenser.

Earlier this month, Beshear announced that Kentucky and Ohio have begun automatically exchanging prescription medication data, following the launch of the electronic Prescription Monitoring Information Exchange (PMIX). The PMIX program is a partnership between the KASPER system and the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System (OARRS).

At Wednesday’s Ashland meeting, representatives discussed strategy, shared ideas and research, and identified funding and educational opportunities. Future meetings will include discussions on multi-state goals and initiatives to curb in the influx of illegal prescription drugs, as well as ways to better share information and resources for the states’ mutual benefit. The task force will eventually provide recommendations to each state’s governor regarding best practices for cooperation among the states in fighting prescription drug abuse.

The states began planning a multi-state task force after Beshear met with Ohio Gov. John Kasich in May on the prescription drug problem, and how the two states could work together toward a common goal of reducing trafficking and illegal use.

Beshear met with Florida Gov. Rick Scott this spring to personally encourage him to adopt a prescription drug monitoring program to stop the flow of prescription drugs from Florida to Kentucky. U.S. Congressman Hal Rogers, Attorney General Jack Conway and Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo also reached out to Scott.

“As a result of our efforts, Florida has passed and funded its own monitoring program to put some restrictions on these pill mills and it will benefit Kentucky,” Beshear said. “It won’t totally solve the problem by any means, but it’s going to cut off that pipeline and help save more of our families.”

Beshear said he is hopeful that other states will develop and use prescription drug monitoring programs to work with Kentucky and fellow states. 

“Kentucky isn’t an island. We have to attack this problem on a nationwide basis and work with other states to share information if we hope to turn around the prescription drug problem,” Beshear said. “Prescription drug abuse tears families and communities apart. We are going to keep working every day to restore hope to our families.”