Gov. Steve Beshear issued a warning to doctors who skirt ethical standards before he signed legislation Tuesday to fight the scourge of prescription drug abuse.
Surrounded by legislative leaders and law enforcement officials, Beshear said he was there to add his name, “but we’re also here to deliver a loud and clear message to the pill pushers in white coats and the illegitimate pill mills in Kentucky, and that message is: ‘Get out of this state, because we’re coming after you.’”
The bill does a number of things to strengthen the state’s regulation of prescription narcotics, including expanding use of the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting program, or KASPER. It now requires physicians and other prescribers to register with the system and use it to make sure patients aren’t getting prescriptions from several doctors.
It also requires that pain management clinics be owned by licensed medical practitioners to prevent the proliferation of socalled pill mills. And it requires medical licensure boards to immediately investigate complaints. It seeks to provide better cooperation between law enforcement officials and health regulators to deal with drug abuse problems.
Beshear was joined by Attorney General Jack Conway; the legislation’s sponsor, House Speaker Greg Stumbo; Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers; and other leaders. Conway said prescription drug abuse is a problem that claims more lives in Kentucky than car accidents.
The governor called House Bill 1 “critical legislation that strengthens the tools we will use to attack the problem of prescription drug abuse, a crisis we all know is devastating our communities.”
Beshear commended leaders of both parties for their diligent work in crafting the legislation and specifically mentioned Stumbo, Stivers, chairmen of the House and Senate judiciary committees, Rep. John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville, and Sen. Tom Jensen, R-London; Conway; and Van Ingram of the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy.
Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, had wanted “something stronger” that would have moved KASPER from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to the attorney general’s office, but the compromise is a move in the right direction, and if necessary, it can later be amended.
The speaker said the “awful plague” of prescription drug abuse has touched almost every family in the state, including his own.
Although the war on drugs has “changing battlefields,” Stumbo said, the bill is an important strategy.
“We won’t give up until we win this war,” he said.
Tilley, who had worked with Jensen and Stivers, credited them with getting it passed in the Senate when it “did not look promising.”
Stivers said he had several people during the legislative sessions tell him tragic stories about loved ones who were victims of drug abuse. He said his county’s coroner said 55 people in 2011 had died as a result of prescription drug overdose or car wrecks that were caused by intoxicated drivers.
“There is no politics to this,” Stivers said.
Conway said one in five Kentucky high school students is abusing a prescription painkiller.
“I’m sick and tired of people saying to me, ‘Jack, we’ve lost an entire generation,’ so I’m trying to go to talk to the next generation,” he said.