Attorney General Jack Conway formed the task force in 2009, utilizing a $50,000 grant from the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators. The task force investigates prescription drug trafficking, overprescribing physicians, doctor shopping and illegal out-of-state pharmacies, and it has representatives from law enforcement agencies across Kentucky.
The Hazard Police Department is one of those agencies, and Chief Ronnie Bryant noted that by joining the task force, his department can effectively work with other agencies outside of Perry County.
“One tremendous asset of being a member of this force is that it gives the authority to work directly with investigators in other jurisdictions,” Bryant said.
Since its creation in August of 2009, the task force has been involved in more than 130 prescription drug diversion investigations, including a year-long undercover investigation of Dr. Richard Albert in connection with the operation of an alleged “pill mill” in Paintsville, Ky.
The task force also participated in Operation Flamingo Road in October of 2009, Kentucky’s largest prescription drug bust that resulted in felony arrest warrants for more than 500 people, including several in Perry County.
“I am extremely proud of our many accomplishments over the past two years in the fight against prescription drug abuse,” General Conway said. “My task force has done a tremendous job tracking down those who are peddling prescription pills, targeting overprescribing physicians and cutting off the prescription pill pipeline between Kentucky, Florida and other states.”
To date, the task force has opened 131 cases, 57 of which remain open. Fifty people have been arrested, while the task force has also participated in 14 drug roundups.
And as prescription drug abuse remains one of the top issues in Eastern Kentucky, Chief Bryant noted that cooperation between law enforcement agencies, from the state level to the local departments, is going to be key as they move forward and continue to fight the state’s drug problem.
“We need every tool we have to combat the drug epidemic, and this task force has been a a very valuable tool,” he said.