U.S. Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers introduced three students from Rockcastle County High School (RCHS) to several national leaders during the 2nd National Rx Drug Abuse Summit hosted by Operation UNITE in Orlando, Florida this week.
RCHS students, Hannah Eaton, Sean Watkins, and Avery Bradshaw bravely shared their heartbreaking stories of losing parents and close relatives to drug-related deaths with the Dr. Margaret "Peggy" Hamburg, Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and U.S. Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske.
"I'm very proud of these three young people who are not afraid to speak out on the very real problems that our young people face everyday as a result of prescription drug abuse," said Rogers. "They have been on national television, they have testified before Congress on Capitol Hill, and now they continue to march forward, capturing the attention of national leaders who can actually initiate change in this country. Hannah, Sean and Avery are remarkable young leaders and I commend them for their tenacity to make a difference."
"We have a lot of education in our school and in our region, but so much more needs to be done across the country," Hannah Eaton expressed to several leaders.
"Everyone I know, even high school students, first got addicted from an injury like a car crash or a sports injury, and it has destroyed their lives," said Sean Watkins who lost his mother to prescription drug abuse and now lives with his grandfather.
"A lot of great efforts have been made, but we need to start teaching kids about the effects of drugs at a younger age," urged Avery Bradshaw, who lost his father to prescription drug abuse and now lives with his great-grandparents.
"The impacts of drug abuse on our students is the most powerful message we can relay to our national leaders," said Karen Kelly, President of Operation UNITE. "Dr. Frieden encouraged us that we can stop this epidemic, and with these young leaders taking the initiative to lead the way, I believe we can and will."
The National Rx Drug Abuse Summit continues through Thursday, April 4th.