Hundreds come to Hazard for symposium

By: Marcus Conroy Email
By: Marcus Conroy Email

A doctor's violent death has inspired a big movement in the war on illegal prescription drugs in eastern Kentucky.

Doctor Dennis Sandlin was allegedly shot and killed by a man police say was seeking drugs at Sandlin's office.

"We do have a drug problem in eastern Kentucky. It has changed the face of the culture of eastern Kentucky for the past two decades," Elizabeth Bishop, a social worker, said.

Sandlin's friend Lieutendant Governor Daniel Mongiardo and others did not want Sandlin's death to go in vein.

Medical professionals, law enforcement, and politicians began holding forums across the region. They are trying to find different ways to address the drug problem.

"We believe that we will legislate this problem, and there's no way we will ever legislate it out of existence," James Recktenwald, a drug and alcohol counselor, said.

The forums led to a medical symposium on Saturday in Hazard. More than 200 medical professionals from all over the state came together to discuss possible solutions to the region-wide problem.

"I think it's really important to bring together the providers and professionals who relate to these populations," Sharon Walsh said.

The issues of over-prescribing drugs and the culture of addiction were discussed.

Elizabeth Bishop is a social worker in Prestonsburg. She says many people can be rehabilitated if they are given a chance.

"I meet young people everyday who have messed up their lives and they want to get back on track, and education is one way to do that," Bishop said.

Everyone who attended hopes this is another step in the fight to save eastern Kentucky from drugs.

One expert said the problem usually starts with one legal prescription that someone else gains possession of and begins abusing. Doctors advise that if you are done taking a prescription, simply throw it away.

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