I’ve long been an advocate in helping my people find solutions to the prescription drug diversion problem. On the district level, I called together local leaders, law enforcement, churches and concerned citizens, and helped organize an organization called Operation UNITE, which stands for Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment and Education. UNITE uses a three pronged strategy to utilize local law enforcement, treat those who are addicted and educate our youth on the dangers of drugs. The success has been tremendous as over 3,400 drug dealers have been put in jail, over $9 million worth of drugs have been confiscated, more than 1,700 people have received treatment, and close to 59,000 young people have participated in counseling programs.
Knowing that the chains of addiction expand far beyond my region, I went to Congress and fought for state-sponsored Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs which give law enforcement, pharmacists and respectable doctors a valuable tool to fight back. One such monitoring program in Kentucky – KASPER – has been a model for the nation. KASPER can be utilized by law enforcement and health care professionals to track vital prescription information so that our doctors and pharmacists know when a prescription is being abused, and law enforcement can root out unscrupulous doctors who are aiding drug dealers and addicts. These state monitoring programs are now collaborating across borders to share data, coordinate drug interdiction, and stop pill mill operations. To date, 33 states have enacted and are working to implement similar programs.
Even with all these resources, the problem still remains. While it is never pleasant to talk about the ugly problems facing our communities, that is exactly what we need to be doing. If we are serious about stopping this epidemic then we must be vocal and raise awareness about the problem and we must get serious about finding solutions. That is why my colleagues and I came together last week to start the Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse. Representative Mary Bono Mack and I are co-chairs of this bipartisan caucus and we will educate Members of Congress, congressional staff, government officials and the general public about the dangers of prescription drug abuse and pursue legislative solutions -- like H.R. 4956, which more carefully limits circumstances drugs like Oxycontin can be prescribed. I want to thank Representatives Bill Delahunt, Stephen Lynch and Connie Mack for their unwavering support. As original caucus members they recognize that nearly 7 million people are abusing prescription drugs and that we must stop this problem before it cripples our communities and threatens the lives of so many people. I invite other Members of Congress to join our efforts and help ensure that we are doing everything in our power to stop this epidemic.