FRANKFORT, Ky. – Governor Steve Beshear and other state officials are reiterating the importance of a package of legislation focused on fighting prescription drug abuse. He was surrounded by more than two dozen stakeholders at a press conference Monday to discuss the proposals.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo filed House Bill 4 last week calling for tougher restrictions on pain management clinics along with better use of the state's prescription monitoring system, and other lawmakers have filed similar bills. Stumbo calls the issue a bi-partisan effort.
"It doesn't matter whose name is on it, it matters what names it saves down the road, what lives it affects, and how it has a positive impact on this problem. And I believe that it will."
For the past several months officials have used a sobering statistic to illustrate the magnitude of Kentucky's problem with prescription drug abuse: that on average 82 people die each month from drug overdose. That data is from 2009. Now in 2012 lawmakers appear ready to act on legislation that would crack down on illegal pain clinics.
"Two years ago Senator Elizabeth Tori introduced a bill in the state Senate to outlaw pill mills. And I turned a deaf ear to her because it didn't affect me or my district, so I thought," says Sen. Jimmy Higdon.
Later that summer Higdon says a pill mill opened up in his hometown of Lebanon. He's now sponsoring a bill that would require pain clinics to be owned by a licensed physician or hospital.
"I'm sure that every one of us up here wished that we had all realized what a horrible issue this is earlier," says Gov. Beshear. "But I can tell you we realize it now and we're going to do something about it during this session."
A recovering drug addict also spoke at Monday's press conference. Crystal says she got hooked on pain killers while working as a nurse.
"Any step to prevent more overdoses I have lots of friends that have died from this, and I'm very fortunate that I had somewhere to go."