Representing a united front, policymakers from both sides of the political aisle, law enforcement, medical officials and other leaders stood by Gov. Steve Beshear Monday in support of attacking the state's prescription drug abuse problem head-on with legislation. (Courier-Journal photo by Tyler Bissmeyer)
"If ever there was a Kentucky issue, this is it," Beshear said.
Among others, Beshear was flanked by Attorney General Jack Conway, Dr. Preston Nunnelley, president of the state Board of Medical Licensure, and House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, who last week introduced sweeping legislation that would require prescribers to use the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting system; shift KASPER responsibilities to Conway's office; and require that pain-management clinics be owned by licensed health practitioners.
A bill introduced by Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, aims at making sure the 77 pain clinics in the state be owned by licensed practitioners; now, 33 of them don't. Higdon was also present at the rally Monday and feels "it doesn't matter who gets credit for the legislation — a strong bill needs to be passed," reports the C-J's Laura Ungar.
State Sen. Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, gave heartfelt testimony about people in his life who were battling prescription drug abuse, including a friend's nice and his cousin's daughter. He's also been approached by people in his district begging for help, including a man who stopped him while he was buying groceries. "He said, 'I buried my son in December because of prescription drug abuse. Y'all need to do something about that.'"
He called the issue "the worst problem this state has," adding, "It affects families, it affects business, it affects insurance, it affects productivity."
Stumbo said, "If your family has not been affected by this scourge, you should go home and get on your knees and pray to your God."
Each month, on average, more than 80 Kentuckians die from drug overdoses, more than from traffic accidents. Beshear said fighting the problem is one of his top priorities. "We want to make absolutely sure these bills get the attention they deserve in this session," he said. "... We won't solve (the pill problem), but we're gonna make an aggressive push toward radically reducing" it. (Read more)
To view KET's "Legislative Update" showing highlights of the press conference, click here.