DRUG DIVERSION & ABUSE: Kentucky Takes Steps to Reduce Pill Abuse

Cmdr John Burke
Published Online: Thursday, October 15, 2009

John Burke, commander of the Warren County, Ohio, drug task force and retired commander of the Cincinnati Police Pharmaceutical Diversion Squad, is a 40-year veteran of law enforcement. Cmdr Burke also is the current president of the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators. For information, he can be reached by e-mail at burke@choice.net, via the Web site www.rxdiversion.com, or by phone at 513-336-0070.


Cmdr. John BurkeI had the pleasure of attending a press conference recently in Lexington, Kentucky, that was held to mark the beginning of a statewide prescription drug task force. Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway had organized the effort involving enforcement officers from his office and many others from around the state.

The goal, of course, was to ramp up an attack on prescription drug abuse, and I was fortunate enough to be there representing the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI) to present a $50,000 check in seed money for this endeavor. This seed money was part of a grant provided to NADDI by Abbott Laboratories to encourage law enforcement agencies to begin new attacks on this decades-old problem.

Kentucky is no stranger to prescription drug abuse, with the southeast portion of the state historically being hit the hardest. Reports in 2008 indicate that almost 500 people lost their lives in Kentucky to prescription drug abuse. Additionally, according to Kentucky’s Office of Drug Control Policy, the state leads the nation in the use of prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes in 2008.

The mothers of 2 of those lives were present at the press conference, and seeing the photos of 2 beautiful and vibrant young ladies, and then hearing the tragedies that resulted in their deaths from the abuse of pharmaceuticals, touched everyone in the room. The mothers commented that none of us really know how it feels, unless we experience such a calamity, and I certainly agree.

It is not as if Kentucky has sat around and done nothing about this deadly issue. Louisville and Lexington police departments have long had investigators dedicated to pursuing prescription drug offenders, along with the serious efforts by the Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment and Education task force that includes several agencies in southeast Kentucky enforcing drug diversion laws.

The law enforcement effort has been coupled with prevention and education programs by professionals, and an effort to introduce meaningful rehabilitation, that is based in the Lexington area. Kentucky also has one of the best prescription monitoring programs in the nation. The Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting System has long been one of the standards in the nation of these valuable programs.

Scores of health professionals— prescribers, nurses, and pharmacists—have joined many programs throughout the state of Kentucky to attempt to reduce the devastation that comes with prescription drug abuse. I have no doubt that these same people will assist this new task force initiated by the state attorney general to combat pharmaceutical diversion.

One reporter at the press conference questioned whether $50,000 will really make a dent in this problem and do much to finance a significant law enforcement effort. General Conway reminded the reporter that the money was only designed as “seed” money to get the program off the ground.

Undoubtedly that is true, and it is why NADDI calls this a seed grant. What the reporter does not understand, however, is that law enforcement and other government entities have been able to squeeze every penny out of funding like this in order to do the best job possible. They are used to working in old offices with borrowed staplers and worn out computers and vehicles, with limited amounts of undercover “buy” money, putting in hours they never get paid for, because they love their jobs and truly have a sense of mission. If only our elected officials in Washington could have some of the same work ethic.

I have no doubt that Kentucky law enforcement will use this money wisely and will do their very best to once again attack this issue with even greater force than before. There is no option, as too many lives are at stake.



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