‘Best practices’ report offers opportunity for coordinated national effort against prescription drug abuse

Coordinating best practices of our nation’s prescription drug monitoring programs will enhance opportunities to save lives and curb abuse and addiction, according to the director of a successful anti-drug organization in Kentucky.

FILE - In this Nov. 19, 2011 fie photo the U.S. Capitol building is seen in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

WASHINGTON, DC – Coordinating best practices of our nation’s prescription drug monitoring programs will enhance opportunities to save lives and curb abuse and addiction, according to the director of a successful anti-drug organization in Kentucky.

“Too often we think of substance abuse from an impersonal perspective when, in reality, we should be focusing on the individuals and families overwhelmed with the consequences of a loved one’s addiction,” said Karen Kelly, president and CEO of Operation UNITE (Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment and Education), during a Capitol Hill briefing to discuss findings of a new study outlining the best practices of state prescription drug monitoring programs.

“Our state lost 82 lives a month last year to drugs – more deaths than from motor vehicle crashes,” Kelly noted. “It is sobering to look into the faces of innocent children who are abused, abandoned or forgotten because of their care-giver’s addiction. We now have an opportunity, as a nation, to systematically unify the patchwork of strategies and standards.”

The report, compiled by experts from the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Center of Excellence at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management, provides a framework for a proactive, coordinated national strategy to attack this epidemic, she continued.

“This is not an abstract exercise. These are not just statistics. Substance abuse affects lives, families and communities,” Kelly said, offering examples of how her own family has been devastated by addiction. “Our region has lost a generation. Hopefully states will take notice and incorporate these best practices into their own prescription drug monitoring programs.”

Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers (KY-5th), chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations, said the report “provides a roadmap” for law enforcement and health officials to enhance existing efforts. Prescription drug abuse “is devastating American families and draining state and federal time, money and manpower,” he added.

Currently 49 states have authorized creation of prescription drug monitoring programs, with 41 states having programs in operation.

The report, funded by The Pew Health Group, a division of The Pew Charitable Trusts, examined each of these programs to identify best practices with demonstrated effectiveness.

As an example, Kelly applauded efforts by Kentucky lawmakers, who passed legislation earlier this year requiring doctors and nurses to utilize the KASPER (Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting) system before dispensing certain scheduled drugs and requiring “pain management facilities” to be owned by a physician with an active Kentucky medical license.

“Since that law took effect a few months ago the state has already pulled licenses of several ‘pill mill’ operators,” she noted. “This legislation is already saving lives.”

For more information about Operation UNITE visit their website at www.operationunite.org.


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