The Richmond Register

July 25, 2013

AG: Opiate addiction continues to plague the state

Conway gives Frankfort update at Berea chamber luncheon

By Sarah Hogsed
Register News Writer

BEREA — Describing the fight against drug addiction as a game of “whack-a-mole,” Attorney General Jack Conway told county leaders Wednesday at a Berea Chamber of Commerce luncheon that his office is dedicated to promoting more treatment options.

Conway acknowledged that recent legislation has led to the closure of nearly half the painkiller-dispensing clinics in the state, but this has led to an upswing in heroin trafficking.

“(Painkillers and heroin) have the same active ingredient,” Conway said.

Opiate addiction has destroyed thousands of Kentucky families, he added.

“The collateral damage of this issue has been devastating,” Conway said. “We need more treatment options in this state.”

In 2007, Conway’s office sued Purdue Pharmacy, the maker of Oxycontin (oxycodone). The attorney general is alleging the company falsely promoted the drug to health care providers as less addictive than other pain medications.

Kentucky is seeking reimbursement for money spent on law enforcement, drug treatment programs and Medicaid prescriptions.

If the state wins the suit, Conway said Wednesday that he will push for the settlement money to be placed in a trust that will fund addiction treatment centers.

“We need more treatment beds in this state, whether it’s (for) painkillers or heroin,” Conway said.

Conway also touted the success of his office’s Cyber Crimes Unit. The unit has been successful in removing 400,000 child pornography images from the internet.

Conway said he saw the need for a centralized cyber crimes unit because individual county and city law enforcement agencies didn’t have the resources to quickly to pull evidence from suspects’ computer hard drives.

“If you send a hard drive to us, we’ll send it back in about a week,” Conway said.

His office has processed about 6,500 computer hard drives that had data used for evidence in criminal cases.

Conway also briefly discussed the state’s ongoing investigation of for-profit colleges. About 20 additional state attorneys general have joined in the action. One of the colleges being investigated, National College, has a campus in Richmond.

Conway said most for-profit colleges tend to be much more expensive than state schools, and 90 percent of their funding comes from state financial aid students use to pay tuition fees.

“If they’re going to make a profit, they need to abide by Kentucky consumer protection laws,” Conway said.

A representative from National College attended the luncheon, and afterward she publicly thanked Conway for speaking to the group and invited him to visit Richmond’s or any other National College campus.

Sarah Hogsed can be reached at shogsed@richmondregister.com or 624-6694.