Attorney General Andy Beshear is taking an innovative step in the fight against what he believes is the single greatest threat to Kentucky—the state’s drug epidemic.
Beshear has launched the Kentucky Opioid Disposal Program in August 2017, the state’s first initiative to allow Kentuckians to safely dispose of opioid medications at home. The program involves the drug deactivation pouch, Deterra, which allows Kentuckians to dispose of their unused prescription opioids in a completely safe and environmentally friendly manner.
Kentuckians will be able to place their unused medication into the pouch, fill it with warm water, wait 30 seconds, seal the pouch, and shake the pouch before disposing of it in normal trash. One pouch destroys 45 pills, six ounces of liquid, or six patches.
The pilot program will provide 50,000 drug deactivation pouches in four Kentucky counties—Floyd, Henderson, McCracken and Perry—and will be included in Beshear’s statewide work with Kentucky’s seniors and faith-based communities.
When Kentucky Living asked about the possibility of expanding the program, Beshear says, “The pilot project has the potential to remove 2.2 million opioids from Kentucky’s medicine cabinets. We will therefore push the project until each and every pouch is used to destroy as many dangerous drugs as possible. And we have already been approached by three counties and more than five regional groups on possible expansions of the program.”
Beshear adds, “Nearly 80% of heroin users first become addicted through prescription pills. Our hope is that, one day, the Kentucky Opioid Disposal Program can provide deactivation pouches to every Kentucky family, and that every time a Kentuckian is prescribed a dangerous medication, they are also provided the means to dispose of it safely. If we can achieve this vision, we will slow or even reverse the rate of addiction. We will also significantly reduce the rate of home break-ins.”
He is working with the sheriffs in the four counties to distribute the pouches to local residents and organizations who are disposing of prescription opioids.
On the funding side, the Attorney General’s office is partially funding the initiative with settlement funds, and partnering with the nonprofit A Stronger Kentucky Inc., chaired by former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, for the remaining funding.
“We have to be as creative as possible in trying to find different ways and avenues to combat the prescription drug problem we are experiencing in Kentucky,” says McCracken County Sheriff Jon Hayden. “This is certainly a creative idea in that this could cut off a source for some people in obtaining some highly-addictive controlled substances. Our county certainly appreciates any efforts made to or presented to us in combating this problem that has in fact reached epidemic levels in parts of our state.”
“Floyd County and eastern Kentucky are facing a drug epidemic that is crushing our families and communities,” says Floyd County Sheriff John Hunt and Floyd County Judge-Executive Ben Hale.
“Partnerships and efforts like this disposal program is one of many steps we must take to battle this epidemic on a day-to-day basis if we hope to help our citizens and state.”
“The dangerous issue of our drug epidemic must be addressed in a team effort approach,” says Henderson County Sheriff Ed Brady. “Each citizen, government official, school district and health partner in each community must work in unison to reduce this threat. Our sheriff’s office will stand together with our community to do all we can to make our communities safer and provide the best possible future for our families. I salute our attorney general for leading the charge and providing this unique opportunity to dispose of medications found in every home.”
“Perry County and rural Kentucky are experiencing a battle with addiction that is directly impacting our people and our economic growth,” says Perry County Judge-Executive Scott Alexander. “It’s imperative we work in partnership to develop community-based solutions like the Kentucky Opioid Disposal Program in order to overcome this epidemic and thrive as a region.”
Beshear says his Office of Senior Protection will help distribute the pouches at its senior events at local community centers and churches.
Beshear says it is his hope that future funding from partner groups or by lawmakers will allow this program to continue and expand.