Posts Tagged ‘prescription drug abuse’

Breaking Bad: Can Kentucky Get There?

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Former University of Kentucky president, Lee Todd, coined the term “Kentucky Uglies” to describe the state’s rear-end rankings on lists of most things good and blue-ribbon placement on indicators measuring most things bad. The exceptions are in college hoops and horse racing — but few are content with our state having only those two things on the ball.

We have made tremendous strides in education and addressing our drug abuse epidemic and other struggles, but there’s always more to do. Policymakers, educators, the business community, churches, charities, and average Joes and Janes often express to me what I’ve rephrased in this five-word question: “Can Kentucky ever “break bad?”

Many believe poverty is the root of the ills besetting our commonwealth. Recent U.S. Census Bureau data finds that more than one in four Kentucky children lives in poverty. The nation may ‘have a cold’ in lean economic times, but pockets of Kentucky have caught and are keeping ‘pneumonia.’

The limping national economy has taken its toll on public, private, and individual coffers the last few years, but the plight of the perennially poor in Kentucky has long been a focus of national and state media and those they quote and source. And so it was last weekend in the New York Times Sunday Review by columnist Nicholas Kristof. Kristof presented a narrative of poor families in Breathitt County, Ky., who withdrew their children from literacy classes out of fear they’d no longer qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a monthly government check to parents of a child with an intellectual disability.

The report and Kristof’s commentary about it stoked a response from the Bluegrass state’s leading child advocacy group, Kentucky Youth Advocates. In a rebuttal headlined:“Don’t Pull the Net Out from Children,” author Katie Carter supports Kristof’s rally for more investment in early childhood education programs as a remedy.

But Carter defends the need for safety net programs and scoffs at hints there’s widespread abuse of public assistance. Carter writes “In Kentucky, the families of 29,922 children with disabilities received cash assistance through SSI in 2011. For context, there are a little over one million children in Kentucky, and there were over 100,000 students with some sort of disability in 2010. While any cases of holding a child back from achieving their full potential are disheartening, the data hardly suggest rampant overuse.”

Poverty is complex. It’s situational, generational, geographical, race-based, structural, and behavioral, according to Dr. James “Ike” Adams, the dean of the University Of Kentucky College Of Social Work. We talked about poverty in Kentucky during our “Connections” taping this past September.

“African Americans and people of color are disproportionately beset by poverty, similar to Appalachian regions heavily reliant on a mono-economy,” says Adams. Adams, an Alabama import, now a three-year Kentucky resident, described the Appalachian areas of the state as suffering from structural poverty. “There are simply not enough jobs to accommodate all those who need one,” he adds.

Terry Brooks of Kentucky Youth Advocates said during that same program, that 47 counties in Kentucky are labeled as ‘persistently poor,’ meaning those places have been economically distressed for at least 30 years.

Brooks believes many Kentucky families are working jobs that don’t create bright economic futures. “No state in the country has more children living in homes where neither parent has secure employment, meaning full-time and year-round,” laments Brooks. “It’s not because mom is at home watching Oprah eating bonbons; instead it’s mom holding not one, not two, but three jobs — all part-time, all minimum wage and none with benefits,” he adds.

There are more layers to  poverty than what I’ve laid out here, and different, disparate opinions on why it exists and if/how much government should help. Bill Goodman and I are planning a special program in January about this, entitled “The Price of Poverty in Kentucky.” We’ll both keep you in the loop on that special broadcast. It’s one none of us can afford to miss.

Kentucky Tries Rewriting the Scripts on Prescription Drug Abuse, Meth

Friday, May 11th, 2012

When lawmakers gathered this winter and spring, they crafted the hallmark legislation of the regular and special sessions, dealing with curbing prescription drug abuse and manufacture of methamphetamine.

Policymakers and former addicts had banned together in recent months to fight prescription drug abuse, spurred by the often recited Centers for Disease Control statistics that more Kentuckians die each year from prescription drug abuse than car crashes.

The tragic headlines of children abandoned, harmed, or even killed by reckless exposure to the fatal toxins of meth-making parents too tweaked up from the drug habit to care for their young, to the rising numbers of grandparents parenting again to fill the gap left by their abusing children, to the pop-up pain clinics and pill mills disproportionate to the real pain-killing medical needs of patients all sounded a clarion call to organized, political, life-saving action by law.

The regular session produced a highly negotiated measure to limit the amount of pseudoephedrine-based cold and allergy over-the-counter medicines that could purchased without a prescription. PSE, the chemical shorthand for pseudoephedrine, is the key ingredient used to make meth. Many anti-drug advocates wanted a prescription-only measure, but the political tolerance for such was weak. The deal brokered in the end lowered the amount of cold medicines such as Sudafed or Claritin D a consumer can get from 9 grams to 7.2 grams per month. Gel caps of the ingredient are excluded as it is believed PSE is harder to extract in that form.

Kentucky lawmakers also wrote a remedy for the prescription drug abuse epidemic and pill mills by requiring all pain management clinics to be physician-owned and for prescribers of Schedule II and III narcotics like Oxycodone and OxyContin to use the electronic, prescription drug monitoring system called KASPER to track patient use of painkillers, who prescribes them and how often. The legislation grandfathered in existing pain clinics that are not doc-owned, but they would have to abide by the new rules to stay in business.

One of the most compelling testimonies in Kentucky was brought to bear during legislative public hearings by Clay County business owner Melanda Adams. At age eleven she started experimenting with alcohol and marijuana. Her addiction grew more robust with the addition of prescription medicine abuse. Eventually, she wound up in early her twenties a hard meth addict, busted repeatedly for her habit, passing through the turnstile of several rehabs. Now, in her thirties, Melanda Adams is walking testimony of recovery and wholeness. She tells her story, alongside valiant drug educator and advocate Karen Kelly, president and CEO of Operation Unite in eastern Kentucky.

Adams and Kelly join me this weekend on Connections with Renee Shaw to talk about Kentucky’s drug problem and how they’re waging the battle against it.

Watch a glimpse of the program here.

Policymakers in Lockstep on Reducing Prescription Drug Abuse

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Law enforcement, drug eradication groups, and lawmakers flanked the Governor Monday during a midday press briefing on the matter, presenting a human backdrop of solidarity against prescription drug abuse. Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, Senate Republican Leader Robert Stivers, and others stood shoulder to shoulder with Governor Steve Beshear as he announced a greater resolve by the General Assembly to help fight abuse of prescription meds and to crack down on the pill mills feeding the addictions of many Kentuckians.

Beshear said preoccupation with high profile, headline-grabbing issues of redistricting, expanded gambling, and the budget should not distract from this issue.

“The rising abuse of prescription drugs is literally killing our people. It’s causing untold pain and misery in our families. It’s robbing our economy of productive workers. It’s filling our jails, our hospitals, and our treatment centers. And it’s draining our state budget,” Beshear said. “In a nutshell, drug abuse is wasting away the future of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”

Repeating the regularly cited statement that more Kentuckians are dying from prescription drug abuse than car crashes, a fact acknowledged by the Centers for Disease Control, the Governor said the Commonwealth must sift out pill pushers in white coats from legitimate physicians issuing meds for legitimate pain relief.

As the Governor stated during his live budget address, carried on KET in January, his budget proposal provides for out-patient substance abuse treatment in the Medicaid program for adults and adolescents and reinvests corrections reform savings into expanded substance abuse treatment programs for inmates. His budget recommendation also includes money to beef up the state’s prescription electronic monitoring system, known as KASPER.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo is the sponsor of House Bill 4, which requires all prescription providers to register and use the KASPER system. Currently, according to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, less than one-third of prescribers and one-fourth of pharmacists have been using the monitoring system. Stumbo’s legislation also requires pain clinics to be owned by a licensed physician. Under Stumbo’s plan, powerful narcotics like Hydrocodone and Oxycontin would be limited to 30-day supplies. A Senate measure, SB 42, by Republican Jimmy Higdon of Marion County, also deals with pain clinics and requires them to be physician-owned and properly licensed.

“House Bill 4 and Senate Bill 42 are not in competition with each, but complement each other,” Stumbo said. “If your family has not been affected by this problem, you need to fall on your knees and thank your God because it has affected most Kentucky families—it’s affected mine,” he added.

Attorney General Jack Conway has been working with Speaker Stumbo to draft legislation. He said a public education campaign must be a part of the solution, as addiction starts with accessible home medicine cabinets. Conway says his office is committed to stepping up policing efforts of prescription drug abuse and to work with other states in convincing them to join monitoring efforts.

The most compelling remarks at Monday’s briefing came from Senate Republican Floor Leader Robert Stivers, who is co-signing approaches to reining in prescription drug abuse. The 16-year veteran of the legislature spoke deliberately and passionately about the issue, saying solutions should be free of partisan antics and feuds. He said he stands ready to endure any political pushback his endorsement may bring.

“Politics has no place in the discussion,” Stivers said. “This is the worst problem this state has. It affects families, it affects businesses and productivity,” he added. “I stand here pledging my support and all I can do in the Senate, whatever cost it may come to me personally or politically to see this scourge taken out of our state.”

Thirty-four-year-old recovering addict and former nurse Crystal Copley told the press that she abused prescription medicines for eleven years. “I have lots of friends who have died from this. I was very fortunate I had somewhere to go. I went to the Healing Place and I’ve actually been clean for 13 months,” she said tearfully. “Education and beds for treatment are extremely important, and this is just one step to get the numbers (of addicts) down.”

Kentucky State Police, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Kentucky Medical Association, and other health professional boards are among the dozens endorsing efforts to fight prescription drug abuse in Kentucky.

Learn more about policymakers’ efforts on the Monday, February 6, edition of Legislative Update.

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