Beshear: As Our Brother’s, Sister’s Keeper, We Must Work Together on Opioid Epidemic Solutions

Andy Beshear

Every day, we lose an average of four Kentuckians to a fatal drug overdose. Sadly, everyone reading this column has lost someone they love or care about to drugs or knows somebody who has.

The drug epidemic isn’t hidden in the shadows of big cities like New York and Miami.

It is in our homes and on our streets.

In September, I saw this first hand when I helped pull an overdosing man from a car in downtown Lexington.

It was 3 p.m. on a Thursday.

Fortunately, for the overdosing man, the AG investigator with me that day also works as a part-time EMT and was able to reverse the effects of this life-threatening overdose.

The downtown Lexington experience led me to require naloxone administration training for each of our investigators.

We knew that with the frequency of overdoses throughout the state, preparation for our staff was paramount.

We found out just how important it was just seven weeks after our naloxone training.

On Thursday, Jan. 18, one of our investigators administered two doses of naloxone to an overdosing man at 11:57 a.m. in a Grayson McDonald’s drive-thru. Our investigator worked side by side with Grayson and Carter County law enforcement, EMS and firefighters to help save this man.

Folks, our loved ones are literally overdosing in their driver’s seat while in rush hour traffic or grabbing lunch.

We are truly in the crisis of our generation.

As Attorney General, I am committed to tackling our drug epidemic at every corner.

One of our approaches is to work every day to identify and arrest heroin, fentanyl and carfentanyl dealers.

Another is our Kentucky Opioid Disposal Program to deactivate the thousands upon thousands of unused prescription opioids sitting in your medicine cabinets.

Then there are our multiple lawsuits to hold giant pharmaceutical makers and distributors accountable for fueling our widespread addiction.

In November, I sued Endo Pharmaceuticals. Endo manufactured an opioid called Opana ER, which led to the fatal overdose of 191 Kentuckians in 2016.

In January, I sued McKesson Corporation, which supplies nearly one out of every three prescription opioid pills dispensed in Kentucky. As a distributor, McKesson has a legal duty to monitor and report to law enforcement when it ships large or suspicious supplies of opioids to a state or region.

The company is failing miserably in following this law.

Just look at a single Kentucky county – Floyd.

From Jan. 1, 2010, to Dec. 31, 2016, McKesson distributed 18,434,834 doses of prescription opioids in Floyd County alone. Based on Floyd County’s average population of 38,638, it amounts to 477 opioid pills for every man, woman and child living in the county.

These companies are making billions of dollars by literally flooding communities like Floyd County. They have a responsibility to provide the millions of dollars that it will take to repair the damage.

That’s why on Jan. 31, I was in Ohio to represent every Kentuckian affected by our drug epidemic in national prescription opiate litigation talks before U.S. District Judge Dan Polster.

Judge Polster wanted to hear from my office on how pharmaceutical companies, many who were in his courtroom that day, have harmed our families and devastated our communities. I want to ensure we have a seat at the table and a firm voice at these talks to hold these companies accountable.

That is why, along with 30 members of the Kentucky House, I announced legislation creating a permanent substance abuse trust fund to battle addiction, bolster law enforcement efforts and support drug abuse prevention efforts across the state.

During a time of tight state budgets, the Kentucky Addiction, Prevention, Enforcement and Recovery Fund’s dedicated revenue source would be settlement dollars won by the Office of the Attorney General against irresponsible drug companies, manufacturers or distributors who I’m hauling into Kentucky court to face our citizens.

The Kentucky Addiction, Prevention, Enforcement and Recovery Fund would have an oversight board to administer dollars in an efficient manner to address the immediate needs of law enforcement, treatment providers and prevention educators. The governor and I would appoint members to the fund board. The president of the senate and speaker of the house would serve as ex-officio members.

The establishment of a trust fund ensures that any funds recovered from our two current lawsuits and any future lawsuits are used for their intended purpose and are not diverted to whatever current issues happen to be the hot topic at the time.

Let’s face it – no amount of money we recover will ever bring back our lost loved ones.

However, committing this money to address the epidemic that took them is the right thing to do. It provides a little bit of justice for their families.

As a community, as a state and as our brother’s and sister’s keeper, we must come together to find solutions to this crisis if we are going to move forward as a state for future generations.

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