FRANKFORT — Substance abuse is the single greatest threat to our Commonwealth.
Drugs are killing our children, destroying our families and scarring our neighborhoods.
Drug abuse is also the single greatest impediment to our economic growth, preventing us from landing new job opportunities across Kentucky.
I am fed up.
And I’m ready to fight to protect Kentucky’s families and our future.
As your attorney general, finding solutions to Kentucky’s substance abuse epidemic is one of my office’s top priorities. Make no mistake – we have an epidemic and how we tackle this epidemic will determine if we move forward or fall backward.
Several years ago I met with one of our eastern Kentucky county attorneys. I asked him a simple question: “What portion of your cases is drug-related?”
“All of them.”
Theft, child abuse, domestic violence cases – all his cases were the result of trying to obtain drugs, sell drugs or were precipitated by taking drugs.
Addiction is impacting every Kentuckian, either personally, through family, neighbors and friends or through the diversion of tax revenue to deal with the societal impacts of drug abuse.
And the problem is growing.
Over the past month, reports of heroin related overdoses and deaths have skyrocketed as drugs become more potent. Heroin is now often mixed with other very dangerous substances, like fentanyl, a drug 30 to 50 times as powerful as heroin, and carfentanil, an elephant tranquilizer. Carfentanil is 100 times more potent than fentanyl and 10,000 times more potent than morphine.
Just recently fentanyl was connected to 12 overdoses in a 24-hour period in the community of Mount Sterling in Montgomery County. While I’m proud that investigators from my office assisted in the investigation that led to the arrest of the suspected fentanyl dealer, the drug overdoses continued to surge.
Just days later, Louisville experienced 28 overdoses in one day.
When we hear about these statistics, we must all remember that these are not just numbers; they represent real people with real families that love them.
As 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us: the Lord did not give us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love.
With that power and that love, we as good and decent human beings owe it to our state, communities and each other to work together to find solutions to this crisis.
Kentucky has made some real progress in the past several years. We successfully shut down the vast majority of pill mills. We implemented oversight measures like KASPER to ensure responsible dispensing of controlled substances. We authorized needle exchanges and enacted a Good Samaritan law.
These are worthy and necessary steps, but we must go further, be more proactive and find ways to increase access to quality treatment.
One of the most profound moments of my life occurred this year when I distributed $8 million from a lawsuit my office won against the maker of OxyContin to 15 high-quality substance abuse treatment centers and organizations throughout the state.
Using those types of funds to support recovery felt like justice.
My office also helped to secure $2 million from a settlement with another drugmaker to fund Rocket Docket programs. These programs expedite drug-related cases through the judicial system and get those who need it most to treatment quickly. The programs create efficiencies for the state, local county jails and prosecutors, generating more than $10 million in savings last year.
I’m proud that we could make this money available for recovery, but it’s not enough.
Drug abuse is the single greatest threat to job growth and to a better life for all of us.
In the next budget, our state must step up in a real and meaningful way and secure more funding for greater access to treatment and proven prevention programming for children.
In the meantime, we must expand the availability of naloxone. Access to naloxone must be more widespread, and school systems need to accept and stock it. The only child we cannot treat is a dead child.
We must also remember that this epidemic does not stop at our boarders. Pill mills have been replaced by pill pipelines from neighboring states. That is why, earlier this summer, I agreed to serve as co-chair of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) Substance Abuse Committee. As a member of the committee, I have one goal – to better protect Kentucky families through the promotion of stronger national anti-drug policies.
I’m proud of the work my office is doing to combat substance abuse. We are making progress by cracking down on traffickers, funding proven recovery programming and seeking out new strategies that truly address the problem. We are working to ensure that treatment is not more harmful than the addiction. We are working to stop the invasion of more powerful and deadly drugs. We are trying to create more access to the lifesaving drug, naloxone. We are working to stop those who seek to profit at the expense of those suffering from addiction.
I know that we cannot win this battle alone and that is why we are working across party, county and state lines to save our state’s livelihood and the lives of our friends and loved ones.
I am committed to continuing to fighting for Kentucky families and pledge to do whatever is in my power to stem the tide of this epidemic.
I am ready to fight. I hope you are, too.