U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch discusses heroin scourge in Kentucky
09/20/2016 04:14 PM
RICHMOND – U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch says that the key to fighting heroin and opioid addiction is recognizing it is a disease, and offering intensive treatment for addicts while continuing to come down hard on the traffickers.
Lynch, who was sworn in as the 83rd Attorney General on April 27, 2015, participated in a town hall meeting on Tuesday morning at Madison Central High School in Richmond to launch the inaugural National Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week.
She appeared with a mother who lost her adult son to a drug overdose, as well as a recovering addict.
Lynch reminded the 500 students in attendance that 1,248 Kentuckians lost their lives to opioid overdoses in 2015. That number is up from 1,071 in 2014 according to the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy.
Madison Central student Wes Hurd, asked Lynch where the federal government’s priority is in fighting drugs.
“I was wondering if you believe that the punishment for drug use should be more emphasized rather than the treatment for it,” Hurd asked. “Which one should be more emphasized?”
“I think a lot of our focus in law enforcement has shifted, a lot of people caught up in addiction, we’ve got to find them treatment,” Lynch said.
Lynch says that Kentucky is looked at by many drug traffickers as prime territory to exploit.
“There are people who look at communities like Kentucky and they see, frankly, possibilities,” Lynch said. “They see dollar signs where we see young people.”
After her appearance in Richmond, Lynch met with family members who have lost loved ones to opioid abuse.
Lynch acknowledged that the number of U.S. citizens misusing prescription drugs is steadily rising.
“Earlier this month, the Department of Health and Human Services released new numbers showing that 3.8 million Americans , ages 12 and up, are misusing prescription pain killers,” Lynch said. “It’s a stunning number. What’s also more stunning is that we’re starting at age 12 to track this.”
There has been some discussion by some about the use of Naloxone, a prescription medicine that blocks the effects of opioids and reverses an overdose, to bring addicts back and whether it actually enabling the addicts.
Lynch says that she fully supports the use of the drug because, without it, the addict may very well die.
“The first order of business is to save lives,” Lynch said. “When someone’s in the middle of an overdose, we have to intervene.”
Lynch says a number of Department of Justice funded programs have been designed to help with opioid addiction at the local level.
“At the law enforcement level, we’ll provide grants for additional officers,” Lynch said. “We’ll provide resources to help states their prescription drug monitoring programs. “We’ll provide examples of ones that are working consistently and efficiently, and we’ll provide resources for states to ramp up and improve their own.”
After visiting Richmond, Lynch moved on to Lexington to deliver remarks at the University of Kentucky.
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