The National Rx Drug Abuse Summit is under way hundreds of miles from eastern Kentucky in Orlando, Fla., but the three-day conference which runs through Thursday, was organized by Operation UNITE, the eastern Kentucky anti-drug group that knows all too well the devastating impact the prescription drug epidemic continues to have on this region.
There are two compelling regions for having the summit in Florida instead of eastern Kentucky. One is it is much easier to get top-level people to a conference in Orlando than in Pikeville or Prestonsburg. The other reason is Florida continues to be the source of many of the prescription drugs that fuel this epidemic.
Gov. Steve Beshear, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina M. Benjamin and R. Gil Kerlikowkse, the nation’s “drug czar,” are among the approximately 700 at the summit.
Karen Kelly, president of Operation UNITE, said the conference involves health leaders and lawmakers who are trying to end multistate prescription drug trafficking and abuse. She said Kentucky is not an island when it comes to prescription drug abuse, which kills more Kentuckians than car wrecks.
Officials hope the conference fosters more cooperation and better understanding among agencies dealing with the epidemic.
The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy has said the nation’s fastest-growing drug problem is prescription drug abuse. Kerlikowkse has called Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia “ground zero” for pill abuse.
The best thing legislators in Kentucky can do to show their commitment to effectively battling the prescription drug epidemic is to enact House Bill 3 on Thursday, which is not only the final day of the summit but also the last day of the 2012 General Assembly. To do that, the House of Representatives and the Senate must compromise and reach agreement on the most important drug bill in this session. For legislators to allow partisan politics and hard-line stances to kill a bill that easily was approved by both the Senate and House would be a slap in the face of UNITE and so many others on the front lines in the war against prescription drug abuse.