“Substance abuse continues to affect families, communities and economies,” said Jeanne Davis, UK Cooperative Extension Service’s West Region program and development coordinator and conference co-organizer. “We’re trying to pull people together to give them tools and information to address this issue in their communities.”
“Not only is it a family and public health issue, it is a community development issue draining our local economies,” said Debbie Murray, conference co-organizer and associate director of UK’s Health Education through Extension Leadership. “The U.S. Department of Justice estimates it costs local economies across the country $215 billion.”
Featured speakers were Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway. They discussed the prescription drug pipeline that runs roughly along Interstate 75 between the two states and efforts they are taking to curtail drug trafficking along that corridor.
"Prescription drugs are so commonly abused that in Florida we are even seeing infants being born addicted to these drugs," Bondi said. "In Florida, I have worked tirelessly with the law enforcement community, state leaders and the federal government to get tough laws passed. Fighting prescription drugs takes a collaborative effort, and I'm grateful to states, like Kentucky, who are willing to work hand-in-hand with us so we can stop this national crisis."
“As prosecutors, Attorney General Bondi and I have seen firsthand the devastating consequences of prescription drug abuse on families and communities,” Conway said. “We’ve worked together in a bipartisan fashion to stem the flow of illegal prescription drugs coming from Florida into Kentucky; we’ve both created prescription drug task forces to stop overprescribing-physicians and dealers, and we’re working with our fellow attorneys general to ensure that every state implements electronic prescription drug monitoring. I am also working with Gov. Steve Beshear and Speaker Greg Stumbo to pass sweeping prescription drug legislation during this legislative session.”
Lena Mallory, Marshall County 4-H youth development agent in Western Kentucky, said while her area is several hours from the I-75 corridor, prescription drug abuse has slowly crept into the region and resulted in several overdoses and more drugs found during traffic stops. To help raise awareness in her community, she and her 4-H teen members partnered with local law enforcement and community organizations to develop a program called 4-H STAR to address prescription drug abuse.
“The teens use the 4-H Health Rocks! curriculum to talk to middle school students about addiction, stress management, decision making and how to identify symptoms and signs of drug abuse among their peers,” said Mallory, who also was on the conference planning committee.
She presented this program to conference participants and discussed ways community organizations can partner with UK Cooperative Extension.
Ann Vail, director of UK’s School of Human Environmental Sciences and assistant director of Family and Consumer Sciences Extension, said the information provided at the conference is important in helping extension agents and community members educate others.
“It's so important for our extension agents to raise awareness among family and community members about this issue and provide them with skills and education that they can use to identify and address instances of abuse, and provide support to those who are recovering," she said. “We are pleased that the attorneys general from Florida and Kentucky recognize the effect that substance abuse is having on Kentucky communities and support the conference’s goals.”
Rob Good, prevention specialist at the Bluegrass Prevention Center, deals daily with issues related to substance abuse and served on the conference planning committee.
“The Bluegrass Prevention Center has a vested interest in activating our communities to address the substance abuse problems in their area,” he said. “This is best achieved by creating an awareness of its prevalence, having open dialogues about addiction and making available the most current information and materials. To these ends, we support the Different Faces of Substance Abuse Conference.”
Conference sponsors include UK’s Colleges of Agriculture, Social Work and Pharmacy, the Lexington Mayor’s Alliance on Substance Abuse, Fayette County Kentucky Agency for Substance Abuse Policy, Kentucky Division of Behavioral Health and the Ohio County Assets for Youth.
By Katie Pratt
Contact: Jeanne Davis, 859-257-9503, ext. 220; Debbie Murray, 859-257-8900