At National Prescription Drug Abuse Summit, Beshear cites Kentucky’s successes

Gov. Steve Beshear told attendees at the 2014 National Prescription Drug Abuse Summit in Atlanta on Wednesday about the progress Kentucky has made in the last two years in its battle to combat abuse of prescription drugs.

“Prescription drug abuse was wasting away the future of Kentucky… and collectively, as a state, we decided it was past time to take aggressive action,” Beshear said.

Two years ago, Beshear attended the summit  and described a plan; what Kentucky was going to do about prescription drug abuse. Since then, not only has Kentucky implemented an aggressive, strategic plan, it has data showing significant progress.

The plan included increased monitoring of prescriptions, tighter regulations for painkillers, closing pain clinics that did not meet tougher requirements, collecting and disposing of leftover drugs and educating prescribers and the public about the dangerous, addictive nature of these drugs.

The state also set up an electronic prescription drug monitoring system, called KASPER and increased coordination among health regulators and law enforcement both inside Kentucky and with other states.

As for the progress, the evidence is in the numbers. From August 2012 to July 2013, Kentucky saw an 8.5 percent drop in the prescription of controlled substances, Beshear reported, adding that there must have been ” a lot of unnecessary prescribing going on.”

He also noted the closure of 36 pain clinics that did not meet the new requirements: “They packed up and left, essentially in the dark of the night.”

Beshear reported the third area of improvement as less reported abuse of prescription drugs by teen-agers, based on every-other-year surveys of Kentucky 10th graders by Kentucky Incentives for Prevention.

In 2008, 19.3 percent of 10th graders said they had used prescription drugs for non-medical purposes at some point in their lives. In 2012, that number had dropped to 10.4 percent. In 2008, 14.1 percent said they had illegally used prescription drugs in the last month; in 2012, that number dropped to 7.6 percent.

Getting rid of old, unused drugs, whose presence in medicine cabinets can lead to abuse and theft, has also been a strategy of success in Kentucky, Beshear said. He said 172 permanent drop-off sites have been established, with at least one site in 110 of Kentucky’s 120 counties.

Beshear also stressed the importance of educating both prescribers and the public. Kentucky’s medical community has access to a free, on-line education program and students in Kentucky participate in Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program which has reached 40,000 students so far.

The governor said increased availability of substance abuse treatment is important, and mentioned his expansion of Medicaid under federal health reform. “Access to treatment is at an all-time high in Kentucky, thanks to expanded Medicaid programs and the Affordable Care Act,” he said.

“There are many addicts who want to get clean, and we’re helping them.” For a copy of the speech, click here.

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