U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell released the following statement Thursday regarding a briefing on Prescription Drug Abuse with R. Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Director Kerlikowske recently visited Kentucky to get a close-up view of the problems we face in the Bluegrass State.
"Drug abuse threatens everything that is best about our country. It turns productive citizens into hopeless addicts, destroys the bonds between family members, and brings violence into our schools and communities. We must do everything we can to end the plague of drug abuse.
"In my home state of Kentucky, the drug problems are severe. We lose 82 people a month to drug overdose--that's nearly 1,000 a year, more than those killed in traffic crashes. The problems begin early, as Kentucky ranks 8th in the nation for abuse of prescription pain drugs among teenagers. In eastern Kentucky, the average age a child first gets high off prescription pills is 11.
"That's why I'm so gratified that Director Kerlikowske was willing to visit Kentucky and see our drug problem up close. In his tour of Louisville, Lexington, London and Pikeville--four communities ranging from urban to rural and spread out across the state--the director met with and heard from people who tackle this issue from all sides. That includes visits to treatment centers, medical schools, detention centers, and drug courts; and discussions with law enforcement, doctors and the business community.
"The director's tour brought some much-needed focus and attention to Kentucky's drug problem, and I'm very thankful for his help. I look forward to continuing to work closely with Director Kerlikowske in the future, and of course in the meantime it is up to us in Kentucky to keep working towards solutions to these difficult problems.
"Going forward we will need to do more with a tighter budget. Better communication and coordination of all our drug-fighting efforts, as exemplified by the director's trip, will be the key. Briefings like this one are important as well. Thank you all for participating today. I especially want to thank my friend and fellow Kentuckian, Congressman Hal Rogers, for organizing this event. He knows full well the extent of the damage done to Kentuckians by drug abuse that I've briefly described, and his leadership in this fight to save lives is to be admired.
"I'd also like to thank one other Kentuckian who is there today--Hannah Eaton, who visits from Mt. Vernon and is a sophomore at Rockcastle County High School. On top of playing volleyball, softball and being active in several extracurricular activities, Hannah is part of a student theater troupe that promotes an anti-drug message. As long as we have more young role models like Hannah, I feel confident that Kentucky's and America's future can be a drug-free future."