News & Events
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AG Office Initiatives
Adam Eisenstein, Visiting Fellow
Kentucky Tackles Prescription Drug Abuse with Task ForceIn an effort to stem the abuse of prescription medication in Kentucky, Attorney General Jack Conway established a Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force two years ago that is making a difference. Despite cuts to the office’s budget of up to 30 percent, Attorney General Conway identified this initiative as a priority and necessity.
“Prescription drug abuse is one of my top priorities because I am hard-pressed to find a family in Kentucky that hasn't been affected by this issue,” said Attorney General Conway. In Kentucky, one in five teenage children has abused prescription drugs. Years ago, it was one in 10.
The task force investigates problems such as prescription drug trafficking, doctor shopping, illegal out-of-state pharmacies and overprescribing physicians. It consists of law enforcement agents from police departments across the state who work with the Office of the Attorney General through a memorandum of understanding. These officers coordinate statewide resources and investigations to combat prescription drug abuse. Since its inception, the task force has been involved in more than 130 investigations, including the largest drug bust in Kentucky history that resulted in more than 500 indictments.
As part of the overall mission, Attorney General Conway is considering new legislation with the Kentucky governor and House speaker to combat the growing issue. He is also working with Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi as her state implements an electronic prescription drug monitoring system similar to one already installed in Kentucky. Beyond the statewide initiatives, the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office is part of the new Interstate Prescription Drug Task Force with its neighboring states of Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia to combat prescription drug trafficking in the upper South and Midwest.
In addition to investigative efforts, Attorney General Conway created a public awareness program called Keep Kentucky Kids Safe. He tours high schools and middle schools to educate children about the dangers associated with abusing prescription medications.
Attorney General Conway said, “I wanted to reach out to our young people to stop this cycle of addiction - an addiction that many times starts in the home as a result of unlocked medicine cabinets. I partnered with two mothers who lost their children to prescription drug overdoses. Together, we provide a powerful message to young people that even though these pills may have been prescribed by a doctor, they are some of the most addictive substances on the planet that can take your life.”
These two mothers, Lynn Kissick and Dr. Karen Shay, often appear with the Attorney General at school visits and now work to alert parents and students to the dangers of prescription drug abuse. It was partly their idea to focus not just on enforcing the laws already in place, but to also educate the community about the rapidly-growing problem. A video that features the stories of Lynn and Karen may be viewed by visiting http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XM5p2J5Cz3A.
One of the central components of the task force’s public information campaign is the annual Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention public service announcement (PSA) contest. This contest asks high school students to submit 35-45 second PSAs on the dangers of prescription drug abuse. The students upload the videos to YouTube. The 2010 high school winning video can be found here.
The contest is run in conjunction with the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, the Kentucky Pharmacists Association, National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI), and Operation UNITE. The 2011 first-place winner will receive an iPad (donated by NADDI), while the second-place student will receive a $100 Amazon gift card, courtesy of the Kentucky Pharmacists Association.
Finalists are chosen by a panel of individuals from the Attorney General’s Office, with Attorney General Conway selecting the winner. The winning students will receive the awards at a press conference and ceremony hosted by the Attorney General. It is a very effective way of spreading this important information with minimal costs; using students to help spread the message amongst themselves, the office is left to mostly put out notices of the contest and other events held at schools across Kentucky. Several of the videos, including one PSA that Attorney General Conway created, are featured on the Attorney General’s prescription drug abuse web page, along with general information and statistics about the dangers of abusing prescription medications. The website is www.ag.ky.gov/rxabuse.
Virginia Legal Food Frenzy: An Effective Program to Combat Hunger
For state offices or agencies looking to start a creative, effective program to address a growing need—hunger---look no further than the “Legal Food Frenzy.” It is a food drive organized, in part, by the Virginia Attorney General’s Office, and it raised over 1.6 million pounds of food this past April. An annual two-week competition among the Virginia legal community, this initiative has donated the equivalent of over 7 million pounds of food over the last five years to help feed hungry Virginia residents. The Legal Food Frenzy emerged from a partnership between the Attorney General’s Office, the Virginia Bar Association – Young Lawyers Division, and the Federation of Virginia Food Banks. This group organizes, markets, and establishes the rules governing the competition.
“Food banks are in every region of the country working every day to feed the hungry, especially children and the elderly. And many of the charities that food banks supply don’t just give food away. They try to help their clients learn new job skills, find jobs, and break the chains of poverty that are holding them down. This kind of private charity helps make a healthier commonwealth for us all,” said Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. “The Legal Food Frenzy is a great way for people in any office to give back to the community. It’s also a great team-building exercise within the office, and fosters a great sense of community.”
First organized in 2006 under then-Attorney General Bob McDonnell, the Legal Food Frenzy has grown to include over 150 distinct groups within the legal community. Here is how it works: during the first two weeks of April, teams comprised of law firms, legal departments and law schools compete to raise the most food and funds, with $1 equaling 4 pounds of food. The Attorney General’s Office provides awards to those who collect the most food and most food per capita, based on the size of the firm or department. Once a law firm or corporate department signs up for the competition, they are provided with rules and ideas of how to raise the most money/food, as well as special bonus opportunities.
Representatives from the Attorney General’s Office met with individuals from other organizations to begin planning the entire competition as early as six months in advance, with discussions regarding what did and did not work in past competitions. Once general rules were decided, it was up to each firm to decide how they would proceed, while the Virginia Food Bank coordinated the statewide initiatives. For the Attorney General’s Office, the director of administration and several other staff members formed an ad hoc committee in charge of how its office would raise food and funds. This committee then delegated control of specific events to other individuals or small groups within the office. These small groups were responsible for organizing and collecting any materials necessary to their fundraising initiatives.
Attorney General Cuccinelli and staff were very hands-on in ensuring the success of their office food drive. They undertook several initiatives to ensure their success in meeting a self-imposed goal of raising 100,000 pounds this year. Internal planning began approximately 1 ½ months in advance, with the Attorney General’s Office appointing floor captains and event chairs and coming up with ideas for how to foster competition between floors. Each floor created a skit or movie about who was going to win the competition, all of which were performed or displayed at the Legal Food Frenzy’s kick-off pep rally. Subsequently, each floor held luncheons and breakfast events, selling tickets to raise money for food. Casual dress days were also popular, fetching $25 for a week of wearing jeans and business casual dress. A silent auction, made possible because of donations from local businesses and senior staff, fetched over $6,000.
The Attorney General’s Office was one of the most successful groups in the 2011 competition, raising 105,819 pounds of food and winning the “Urbana Oyster Award” for government and public service total pounds.
The food collected from this program is being used to meet the food needs of over 900,000 Virginia residents.
Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway addresses a high school assembly.
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.