Despite its natural beauty and scenic wonders, southern and eastern Kentucky is home to an ugly reality – the region is home to some of America’s highest rates of drug abuse. The epidemic of illegal drugs is by far the most devastating thing I have seen in my more than forty years of public service. It has spread like wildfire, with prescription drugs and methamphetamine tearing apart families, ruining lives, and stretching the resources of our law enforcement and social service agencies to the absolute limit.
While UNITE is the latest step in fighting drug abuse, efforts to address this problem are not new. Since 2000, I have helped direct $35.106 million in funding for marijuana eradication efforts of the Kentucky National Guard and the U.S. Forest Service in the Daniel Boone National Forest. In 2007, law enforcement officials eradicated 1,365 plots in the DBNF, totaling 104,684 marijuana plants.
In 2001, I created a national program that helps states, like Kentucky, track and combat prescription drug abuse. To date, Congress has appropriated $48 million for the Harold Rogers Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. Kentucky has used $2.1 million in grants from the program to enhance and expand the KASPER system, which monitors prescription drug use in the Commonwealth. In March 2005, Kentucky became the first state in the nation to provide a self-service, Internet-based system for tracking all schedule II-V prescription drugs. The program – called eKASPER– allows pharmacists, physicians, law enforcement and other authorized users to obtain KASPER reports 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Prior to the implementation of KASPER in 1999, state drug control authorities took an average of 156 days to complete investigations into abuse of the prescription drug system. The average investigation time has now dropped to 16 days. With the addition of eKASPER, reporting times have dropped significantly to allow for what is essentially real-time reporting.
In Washington, I’m constantly being updated on the Mexican drug cartels that are infecting our country and feeding this epidemic. We must stop the drugs that are illegally flowing over our borders. I have repeatedly called upon the Administration to gain control of our borders. We must coordinate all elements of our national arsenal- including law enforcement, homeland security, diplomatic efforts, and even defense and intelligence resources to break the backs of these drug cartels.
I am hopeful that we will succeed in the battle against drugs. Know that I will remain vigilant in Washington and continue to champion the effort to gain control of our borders. I will not give up until these drug cartels , which prey on people’s addictions and use unspeakable violence, are stopped. Here at home, I will continue to do everything in my power to support UNITE and keep drugs off our street. Protecting our communities from the dangers of drugs is one of the most important things we can do and we must never give up.