At the end of his second year in office, Attorney General Andy Beshear sees more than ever that the single greatest threat to Kentucky is its pervasive substance abuse epidemic.
“This is the challenge of our lifetime, and how we rise to that challenge will determine if we move forward or fall backward as a state in protecting families, creating jobs and improving our daily lives,” Beshear said.
During his second year as attorney general, Beshear intensified his efforts to address the epidemic by suing a major drug manufacturer, establishing a statewide opioid disposal program, investigating and prosecuting drug dealers, and working in a bipartisan manner with state attorneys general to pressure congress for assistance.
In November, Beshear sued Endo Pharmaceuticals and Endo Health Solutions for violating state law and directly contributing to opioid related deaths and overdoses in Kentucky from its drug Opana ER.
In August, he launched the Kentucky Opioid Disposal Program, the first statewide prevention program that allows Kentuckians to dispose of dangerous unused prescription medication in their own home. The pilot program, launched in Floyd, Henderson, McCracken and Perry counties, as well as with statewide senior programs, is aimed at eliminating what is still the largest cause of addiction. It has the potential to deactivate and dispose of 2.24 million opioids.
Alongside local and federal law enforcement agencies, Beshear’s office was instrumental in 2017 in many statewide drug related arrests, and served search warrants on alleged rogue drug clinics in Hazard, Jackson, Lexington, Paintsville and Richmond.
The office also sponsored drug awareness events in Henderson, Paducah and Prestonsburg, and hosted an anti-heroin panel at the 2017 Kentucky Prosecutors Conference.
Beshear and a group of AGs asked a federal judge for the authority to name additional drug manufacturers and drugs in its pending multistate lawsuit that alleges widespread collusion among pharmaceutical companies to reduce competition and increase the price of generic drugs.
Beshear teamed with West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey to pressure health insurance companies to incentivize non-opioid pain management. Humana, Aetna and CareSource are currently communicating with Beshear’s office on the matter.
He further joined with 43 other attorneys general to push Congress to repeal a federal law that effectively strips law enforcement of its ability to immediately halt drug manufacturers and distributors who have willfully contributed to the oversupply of opioids in Kentucky communities.
“As a community, as a state and as our brother and our sister’s keeper, we must come together to find solutions to this crisis,” Beshear said. “It takes coming to work every day to fight for the inches of progress that save or repair the lives of our loved ones. I’m proud of the work my office is doing to combat substance abuse, but we can’t do it alone.”
The attorney general’s office focused resources on a number of other areas in 2017 to better protect Kentucky’s families, for example scam prevention and awareness for seniors.
The AG’s office issued numerous Scam Alerts, including a Hurricane Harvey scam, a fake AG’s office scam, veterans scams and a tractor/pickup scam. To date, nearly 170 partners have joined Beshear’s direct text/email scam warning system, Scam Alerts. New members in 2017 include the Alzheimer’s Association, Greater Kentucky-Southern Indiana Chapter; the Bluegrass Council of the Blind; and the Kentucky Bankers Association.
The office helped convict a Florida man pretending to be an employee of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office. The con artist was ordered to pay back nearly $10,000 to his victims.To better protect victims of sexual assault, Beshear announced a nearly $3 million U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) grant in 2017.
The grant establishes a sexual assault cold case unit in the AG’s office focused on investigating and prosecuting sexual assaults and providing key services to victims during the cold case process. The grant allows Beshear to fund an extra Kentucky State Police cold case unit sexual assault detective, and provides additional funding for up to 1,500 additional untested rape kits. The office will be announcing the creation and staffing of the unit in January.
Child safety continued to be a high priority for Beshear in 2017 by his Department of Criminal Investigations cyber investigators. The number of arrests, indictments and convictions totaled 65 thus far.
The office helped fund statewide trainings aimed at daycares, summer camps, churches and other youth-serving organizations to safeguard children from potential sexual abuse.
The attorney general’s office expanded its efforts to protect victims of sex and labor trafficking by creating Kentucky’s first coordinated effort that encourages hotel owners to sign a pledge to have their front line staff complete an online human trafficking training.
His office provided human trafficking training for all Kentucky Transportation Cabinet highway incident safety professionals in 2017, and formed a coalition with Bikers Against Child Abuse.
The attorney general’s office secured the arrest and indictment against a former Campbell County district judge and school board member on numerous human trafficking charges.
The office also secured the conviction of Michael St. Clair, an Oklahoma man charged with the 1991 kidnapping and murder of Francis Brady, of Bardstown.
The office protected Kentucky families from being ripped off, taking action against several companies, including pharmaceutical companies Cephalon and a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary; Western Union, Target, General Motors, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, Bryant Heating and Cooling Co. Inc., and Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems Inc., or MERS.
Through these and other civil litigation and settlements the office returned nearly $6 million to the Commonwealth’s General Fund and secured potential restitution that could exceed over $8.8 million for eligible Kentuckians.
The office received more than 2,400 consumer complaints and returned over $515,000 in restitution consisting of goods and services in 2017 to Kentuckians.
Efforts by Beshear’s office through civil settlements and criminal restitution resulted in $36 million in obligations to the state and federal Medicaid program, Medicare, Tricare, commercial payers and other entities, including $12 million to resolve multistate claims that pharmaceutical company Mylan Inc. violated federal law by knowingly misclassifying EpiPen and EpiPen Jr. as a generic drug.
Beshear announced that his Office of Rate Intervention entered into a settlement with LG&E and KU that will save Kentucky ratepayers $90 million annually – $33.2 million of that for residential customers.
He recommended the Public Service Commission deny AEP/Kentucky Power’s more than $60 million proposed increase. Overall in 2017, Beshear’s office saved families over $96 million in increases to their utility bills.
As part of his ongoing push for transparency, Beshear’s office ruled on Open Record and Open Meetings opinions at a record-setting pace, and released its biennial report to the public and state officials.
In an effort to better protect students on campus, Beshear filed lawsuits against Kentucky State University and Western Kentucky University regarding their attempts to avoid transparency and accountability in responding to and investigating sexual assault. The office’s ongoing case against the University of Kentucky is before the Kentucky Court of Appeals.
The office will begin accepting open records requests from the public or media by email beginning in 2018. Currently the office receives these requests through fax, postal mail or personal delivery only.
For the upcoming year, Beshear will file further legal action against opioid drug manufacturers, distributors and retailers; push to expand the office’s prescription opioid disposal initiative; and draft legislation to strengthen Kentucky’s laws to fight emerging, more powerful drugs that have caused overdoses, even deaths across the state.
His office has already provided key legislators with draft legislation regarding preventing registered sex offender from accessing a commercial social networking website after a court ruling in 2017, and draft legislation to protect Kentucky families in light of the massive Equifax data breach, which affected nearly 145.5 million Americans and approximately 40 percent of Kentucky families.
Beshear will broaden his work to protect Kentuckians from scams by working directly with military veterans, who according to a recent study, are more likely than other Americans to be victims of scams.