Forum aims to help drug abuse problem
by Cris Ritchie Editor
HAZARD Solving the drug abuse problem in Eastern Kentucky will take a community based approach. Thats what several people who attended the first of four regional drug abuse forums in Hazard said Monday evening.
Held just weeks following the tragic death of Dr. Dennis Sandlin who was allegedly murdered at the Leatherwood/Blackey Clinic by a patient seeking prescription medication the forum was aimed at finding ways to combat and lessen the effects of drug abuse in the region.
Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo helped organize the forum, and said he thinks a dialogue with community members could pay dividends in combating prescription drug abuse.
I think we got some really good ideas tonight to start with, some ideas we had been thinking of and some ideas we hadnt heard before. Mongiardo said. I think this is very encouraging, and I hope the other meetings we have throughout the state bring forth more ideas.
But whatever solutions are generated, Mongiardo said he believes the entire community has to be involved.
Whats happening here is happening to the community, he said. If people in the community dont care, its not going to fix itself. We have to as a community and as a society determine that weve got a major problem and together we can fix it. If were apathetic about it, no one in Frankfort or Washingtons going to fix this problem for us. Its us. Were the ones who are involved, and were going to have to come up with the answers.
Without that community approach, any effort to combat drug abuse will only scratch the surface, said Perry Circuit Judge Bill Engle, who formed the countys first drug court program upon taking office in 2005.
I truly believe that weve got to get community involvement, explained Engle. If we just come here and recognize theres a problem and talk about dealing with it, no matter how concerned we are, if we dont do something about we wont solve it.
Engle said no single entity, such as the court system or law enforcement, can quell the problem of drug abuse on its own, but it will take an all encompassing approach where education and treatment can play the biggest role.
More money needs to be put into treatment, and more money needs to be put into education, he told the crowd.
Several people also made note of the role physicians have to play as well. Judge Engle said they must become actively involved in a solution or its not going to work.
Mongiardo, a practicing physician, said due to high cancer rates and an abundance of vocations that involve manual labor, such as those in the coal and logging industries, there are certainly legitimate reasons why doctors would need to prescribe medications to help ease pain. But at the same time, physicians can also take a proactive approach by utilizing tools available to them, such as the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting system (KASPER) which tracks every prescription written in Kentucky, a tool Mongiardo said is currently under utilized.
Doctors are not educated or made to be lie detectors, but we do have to become better at it than we are. But doctors are going to have to have the tools needed, he continued. For instance, KASPER is one tool that we as a medical community are not using enough. Its (used) 26 percent (of the time). It needs to be 100 percent. Any time a drug is written there should be a KASPER form checked.
Other ideas mentioned at the forum include giving doctors the ability to have access to criminal background checks or to have a database which allows them to know if a patient has already visited a physician to receive prescription medication.
Ultimately, Mongiardo said he hopes these forums will culminate in an effort he can take before state lawmakers, and thats one role he noted that Frankfort can play by facilitating any sort of solution.
If there is any legislation that needs to be passed, we hope to be able to put together a legislative package during this session so we can pass it before this session is over, he said.
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