Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway talked to Bowling Green rotarians and students Wednesday about the threat that prescription pill abuse poses to the state.
Conway, a Democrat, also said after the Bowling Green Noon Rotary Club meeting at Bowling Green Country Club that he hasn’t made a decision about running for governor in 2015, but that there is a “good chance” he will run if he thinks he can win and put together an administration to move the state forward.
“Obviously, I would love to be part of the dialogue going forward as to how we build Kentucky’s future,” he said.
In urging Warren East High School students to make good choices, Conway told them that if they get hooked on pain pills, they are probably headed in one of two directions: “You’re either going to jail or you’re going to the grave.”
Warren County Attorney Amy Milliken and Mike Donta, an Ashland resident whose son died after a struggle with prescription drug abuse, also spoke at the Warren East event, which took place in honor of Red Ribbon Week, which promotes drug prevention.
There are too many people addicted and dying as a result of prescription pills, Conway said.
“Just because it came in a bottle with a doctor’s name on it, it doesn’t mean it’s safe to take,” he said.
Last year, 220 million doses of hydrocodone were distributed in Kentucky, he told rotarians.
Conway said his office will try to hold pharmaceutical companies responsible for their role in the problem.
House Bill 1, which was signed into law in 2012, has meant that four times as many doctors are now using the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Reporting system, and half of the pain clinics in the state have been shut down, he said.
“The collateral damage that this issue is having on our families and our young people cannot be accepted,” he said.
Conway’s goals when he was elected as attorney general in 2007 were to tackle prescription painkiller abuse and cybercrimes, as well as to devote attention to the civil side of his office by issuing opinions and dealing with consumer protection, Conway said.
“I think here we are nearly six years on and I’m very proud of the fact that I think we put people ahead of politics, and we have made significant strides in achieving those goals,” he said.
He created a cybercrimes unit despite a 37 percent cut in his office’s budget, Conway said.
In the past five years, the unit has processed about 7,000 hard drives and digital devices for courts, spoken to about 20,000 children about online safety and taken about 400,000 child pornography images off the Internet, he said.
Education will be a critical part of the state’s future and help Kentucky compete with other states and nations, he said during the rotary meeting.
It’s important to make higher education more efficient and end the “arms race” among university campuses, Conway said.
Public higher education is now beyond the reach of many families because of cost increases, he said.
With the state signing up new people for Medicaid, children involved in that process should be directed to early education opportunities which can have a big impact on their future, Conway said.
“If we’re signing up kids who are 3, 4 and 5 years old, let’s at least try to get them routed to some type of early childhood education,” he said.
The state can’t continue to think of health and education as separate fields, Conway said.
He also talked about the state’s need to strongly attack pension problems and also take a more active role in moves toward a natural gas pipeline in the state.