PRESTONBURG- Attorney General Andy Beshear presented Floyd County and Hope in the Mountains, a local women’s rehabilitation center with a $900,000 donation.
The donation was made possible by the state’s settlement agreement with Purdue Pharma, the makers of OxyContin.
Hope of the Mountains is located at 105 Trimble Chapel Square in Prestonsburg.
The center is on the front lines fighting Eastern Kentucky’s rising drug epidemic. It is a is a 90-day drug and alcohol recovery center for women.
The center can house 26 women and employees 10 individuals.
Joining Attorney Beshear was State Representative and Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo, Senator Johnny Ray Turner, Judge Ben Hale and many others who support the mission and vision of Hope in the Mountains.
“Make no mistake we have reached a point in Kentucky where we have all been touched by addiction through personal experience or the addiction struggles of family, neighbors and friends. We want to protect Kentucky families,” stated Beshear. “This money will afford more programs to teach individuals about the dangers of drug abuse. Relapse prevention programs and employment training for individuals in recovery.”
The money donated was made available through the Attorney General’s Office settlement with Perdue Pharma, the makers of OxyContin.
State Representative and Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo was instrumental in getting the settlement with Perdue Pharma.
Stumbo watched as citizens in his hometown of Floyd County and surrounding areas became slaves to the OxyContin and other powerful opioids. Determined to hold the pharmaceutical giant accountable for the lives their drug destroyed.
Stumbo as the 48th Attorney General was a leader in Kentucky in the fight against Perdue Pharma.
Stumbo filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma in 2007 for illegally promoting OxyContin after 484 people died from OxyContin overdose in Kentucky the year before.
An investigation by the U.S. Government Accountability Office uncovered that Purdue Pharma encouraged doctors to prescribe the drug for conditions other than severe pain. The company also marketed the powerful pain killer to doctors with little or no training pain management.
Several states across the nation followed Stumbo’s lead and also filed lawsuits against Purdue Pharma. The cases were consolidated and moved to Federal Court.
The federal case was transferred to Pike County.
In Federal Court the company pled guilty to the illegal marketing of OxyContin as a drug that was less addictive than other opioids painkillers. The company also claimed the drug was more difficult to abuse than drugs that were already on the market. The company admitted there marketing program possibly made the drug more widely available. This admission of guilt led to a $624.5-million-dollar settlement. Kentucky’s portion of the settlement made in the federal case was $500,000.
Stumbo and other Kentucky leaders would not sell out the citizens of Kentucky, and decided to opt out of the Federal lawsuit to pursue a lawsuit of their own.
“Purdue Pharma has destroyed the lives of many of our friends and family. It makes me proud to be here today as money from Perdue Pharma is being used to fight the problem of addiction in Floyd County and the state,” said Stumbo. “This company has preyed on the citizens of Floyd County and Eastern Kentucky. An investigation into the marketing strategies for OxyContin, discovered the company promoted the powerful drug to areas where industries such as coal mining created labor intensive work days and poverty was prevalent. They sought out the citizens of Floyd County and Kentucky through their marketing practices.”
According to USA Today, a survey showed 70 percent of Pike County citizens agreed “ OxyContin devastated and destroyed the lives of many local Eastern Kentucky citizens.”
Kentucky demanded more than $1 billion in compensation to cover the cost of drug abuse programs, the increased cost created by the need of more law enforcement, payments to Kentucky Medicaid and Kentucky’s pharmaceutical assistance program. Programs such as the Drug Court and Operation Unite have been part of the programs created as a result.
Purdue Pharma said in a statement that the state’s lawsuit covered alleged improper marketing activities by the company from 1996 to 2001 and included the original version of OxyContin.
OxyContin, is an opioid, is designed to be released over 12 hours to provide ongoing pain relief. The original version of the drug could be easily crushed and then snorted or injected to give the abuser an almost instant high equal to heroin.
At the end of December 2015, the pharmaceutical giant agreed pay $24 million to settle a claim that it misrepresented how easy it is to get hooked on the powerful painkiller.
The money went to the state treasury to be used for addiction prevention and treatment programs. The settlement agreement requires Purdue Pharma to make an initial payment of $12 million and eight annual payments of #1.5 million each.
Kentucky’s new Attorney General, Andy Besmear, son of former Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear took office Jan. 4, 2016. Beshear has kicked off his career as Attorney General being able to spread some good news and wealth to a state that has suffered for years fighting drug abuse.
The company Purdue Pharma sought out areas like Kentucky and the hard working coal miners that put in long hours often working in areas so cramped workers would not have room to stand. These harsh work conditions led many miners to suffer injuries, resulting in chronic pain.
According to former users of OxyContin, it felt like a miracle cure at the beginning. However, it didn’t take long for users to discover its ability to enslave then. Its created a physical and mental addiction that continued to grow.
User’s soon realized they needed large doses of the drug to feel better.
The last few years, in addition to fighting addiction, the state has been devastated by loss of coal jobs. Kentucky’s once thriving coal industry has left ghost mines deserted and boarded up.
The Attorney General was static to be in Floyd County to present the donation that will benefit a county and area that has been under a dark cloud for several years because of drug addiction and the loss of coal jobs.
“I am proud and honored to be the one to present Hope of the Mountains with this donation. The people of Floyd County deserve the opportunities and programs that will be made possible through this donation,” said Beshear.
Individuals seeking treatment for addiction have limited options available.
Many individuals are forced to suffer through the pains of withdraw while waiting for an opening in a rehabilitation center. Kentucky offers support groups meetings across the state such as Narcotics Anonymous.
Many health care professionals are making the effort to get training on addiction, which is a requirement for any doctor offering medically assisted treatment such as Suboxone.
In a statement by Purdue’s general counsel, the settlement between the company and Kentucky will allow the company to “focus on developing and bringing innovative abuse-deterrent medicines to patients.”
Officials say as a community, it is time to come together and work to create a brighter future for the next generation of Floyd County Citizens.
Andrea Saddler is a reporter for the Floyd County Times. She can be reached at 606-886-8506.