U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell received the “Federal Legislator of the Year” award today from the Kentucky Narcotics Officers’ Association (KNOA) during the organization’s state conference in Louisville, Kentucky. Composed of more than 500 law enforcement officers from across the Commonwealth, KNOA works to improve intelligence sharing and training in the fight against Kentucky’s drug epidemic.
Speaking before KNOA today, Senator McConnell thanked the organization for the honor and said he was “humbled and grateful. Humbled because I’ve done what I think any elected official, and any father of three daughters, should do to forge the greatest possible partnership with law enforcement. And grateful because of the work, sacrifices, and service of all of you, KNOA, and all of Kentucky’s law-enforcement officers, who put their lives on the line to serve and protect.”
Senator McConnell also thanked KNOA for their “dedication to fighting the scourge of illegal drug use. No drug crime is a victimless crime. Drugs destroy people and tear apart families in a way unlike any other crime. As you well know, Kentucky still faces many challenges – namely with prescription drug abuse and heroin use. But thanks to your efforts, I believe we have made considerable progress toward ensuring that Kentucky communities are safe from this scourge.”
The following are Senator McConnell’s remarks before the KNOA State Conference:
“Thank you, Mike [Brackett, KNOA immediate past president and detective with the Jefferson County sheriff’s office], for that kind introduction.
“And thank you all for this honor of receiving the Kentucky Narcotics Officers Association Federal Legislator of the Year Award. I’m humbled and grateful. Humbled because I’ve only done what I think any elected official, and any father of three daughters, should do to forge the greatest possible partnership with law enforcement.
“And grateful because of the work, sacrifices, and service of all of you, KNOA and all of Kentucky’s law-enforcement officers, who put your lives on the line to serve and protect.
“I want to specifically thank my friend and your Executive Director, Tommy Loving, for allowing me to join you today. Tommy is no shrinking violet when it comes to advocating for those that defend Kentucky’s communities from drugs.
“He has been a leader in this effort while wearing the gray of a Kentucky State Trooper, the polo shirt of the Warren County Drug Task Force, and even a suit and tie when he comes to DC on behalf of KNOA. Thank you, Tommy, for your service to our Commonwealth.
“Law enforcement is one of our nation’s highest callings, as brave peace officers put themselves on the line to defend the lives, safety, and property of their neighbors. I’m here to say thank you for living your oath to defend your fellow Kentuckians.
“I also want to say thank you for your dedication to fighting the scourge of illegal drug use. No drug crime is a victimless crime—drugs destroy people and tear apart families in a way unlike any other crime. As you well know, Kentucky still faces many challenges—namely with prescription drug abuse and heroin use. But thanks to your efforts, I believe we have made considerable progress toward ensuring that Kentucky communities are safe from this scourge.
“I’m proud to have been able to work so closely throughout my career with all levels—federal, state, and local—of law enforcement. And as Kentucky’s senior senator, I will continue to partner closely with KNOA and Kentucky law enforcement for the benefit of all Kentuckians.
“Partnering with KNOA to leverage federal resources to the maximum means we must be creative in the ways we approach stemming the tide of illegal narcotic use. Many different approaches can and should be used.
“For instance, given limited federal resources, I engaged with KNOA and the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy to advocate for both Jefferson County’s and Hardin County’s inclusion into the Appalachia HIDTA program.
“I met personally with the then-Drug Czar, R. Gil Kerlikowske, to advocate for this important move, and invited him to visit Kentucky to see first-hand the challenges posed by prescription drug abuse in the Commonwealth. Personal engagement like this paid off when both counties were successfully included in the Appalachia HIDTA program.
“Similarly, I spoke last week with the new drug czar in support of adding Madison and Nelson counties to HIDTA, and I look forward to favorable action on that front soon.
“Let me give you another example of a creative way to leverage federal resources for the benefit of Kentucky law enforcement. I know that one of KNOA’s biggest fears lies in the spread of generic pain pills, which are cheaper alternatives to brand name drugs, and therefore much more readily available and easily abused when lacking the technologies to reduce misuse and abuse.
“That’s why in 2012 and 2013, I sent letters to the Food and Drug Administration chief administrator, Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D., expressing our concerns with generic, crushable opioids coming to market without abuse-deterrent features.
“I recognize that much more needs to be done to incentivize the development and use of abuse-deterrent products. I am proud to be aggressive in working with all federal agencies that have a responsibility to prevent and address drug diversion and prescription drug misuse and abuse, such as the DEA, ONDCP, and FDA, to do what we can through regulations.
“And I will continue to engage with the FDA to advocate for the development of abuse-deterrent technologies that reduce the likelihood of opioid misuse and abuse, while balancing the legitimate medical needs of patient suffering.
“I’m also proud to say that working with KNOA and by advocating with the DEA, we were able to get hydrocodone combos reclassified from schedule III drugs to the more restrictive schedule II. That’s a win I’m proud of having achieved working with you.
“In addition to reaching out to the executive branch, progress can also be achieved through legislation.
“As many of you know, earlier this year in northern Kentucky, I convened a listening session on our state’s heroin abuse problem to hear from those closest to it, including professionals in the medical, public health, and law-enforcement fields as well as a brave young man who managed to break free from heroin addiction after seeing his friends overdose.
“One issue that was raised during this session that particularly caught my sympathies was the increasing number of infants being born in Kentucky dependent on opiates in the form of prescription painkillers and heroin.
“The situation is just heart-breaking. These children are the most innocent members of our society, and we must do all we can to protect them.
“That’s why I’m proud to have introduced the Protecting Our Infants Act in the U.S. Senate, which is designed to address the scourge of opiate dependency in newborns, as well as maternal addiction.
“My Protecting Our Infants Act will help identify and disseminate recommendations for preventing and treating maternal addiction so that we can reduce the number of infants born dependent on opiates and other drugs. The bill would promote recommendations as to how to identify these babies born suffering from withdrawal, and how best to treat them.
“The bill would also encourage the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to work with states to improve the availability and quality of research data to help them respond more effectively to this public health epidemic.
“While there’s still more to be done, I believe my bill is a step in the right direction to help ensure that our public health system is better equipped to prevent and treat maternal opiate addiction and the resulting infants that are born dependent on opiates.
“The important point is, whether it is through legislative action or in conjunction with the executive, it’s going to take continued teamwork and bipartisanship to combat the illegal drug threat.
“That’s why I am willing and eager to continue working with all comers. Illegal drug use doesn’t distinguish between Republicans and Democrats, and neither should we when it comes to fighting it.
“My good friend Frank Rapier, the executive director of Appalachia HIDTA, never fails to remind his law-enforcement partners of his motto: “There’s no limit to what we can accomplish when no one cares who gets the credit.” Frank Rapier’s words should guide our efforts to partner across the local, state, and federal levels on behalf of working to stem the tide of drug abuse.
“I know the assembled members of KNOA already have taken this lesson to heart, and you are at the tip of the spear in Kentucky’s fight against drug abuse.
“Thanks to all of your hard work, and with the efficient leveraging of federal resources and authorities, using best practices learned from law-enforcement agencies across the commonwealth, we can and we will continue to make progress toward eliminating the scourge of illegal drug abuse from otherwise healthy and happy communities across Kentucky.”