Children in Kentucky Pay Price for Parents’ Prescription Drug Abuse

More than 86,000 children in Kentucky are being raised by someone other than a biological parent, and prescription drug abuse is largely to blame, community leaders say.

CNN reports that while it is difficult to assess how many children are orphaned after a parent overdoses from prescription drugs, state data shows Kentucky is the fourth most medicated state in the country, and has the sixth highest rate of overdose deaths.

“Someone has to take care of these kids, and we simply do not have the facilities to do that,” said U.S. Representative Hal Rogers, whose district in Kentucky is hard hit by prescription drug abuse. “So it’s neighbors, it’s churches, other civic groups that are trying to be parents to these kids who are orphaned by drug-abusing parents. That’s a huge undertaking, because there’s literally tens of thousands of these young children.”

He started the Operation UNITE drug task force in 2003 to fight the prescription drug abuse epidemic in Kentucky. The task force has set up programs at schools across the state to help children who have lost their parents to these drugs.

The state has taken steps to combat prescription drug abuse. Earlier this year, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear signed into law a bill requiring that all pain clinics be licensed, specifies requirements for ownership and employment, and obliges Kentucky’s licensure board to develop regulations for pain clinics. It gives law enforcement easier access to the state’s prescription drug monitoring database. Doctors must examine patients, take full medical histories, and check electronic prescription records before writing prescriptions for opioids.

Last month, Dan Smoot, Law Enforcement Director of Operation UNITE, noted that as Kentucky begins to see results from its crackdown on prescription drug abuse, officials are reporting a rise in heroin use.

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