Since 2010, I have traveled across the commonwealth speaking to students about the dangers of prescription drug abuse through our Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program, an ongoing effort to help stop a problem that is plaguing many Kentucky families. I have heard the heartbreaking stories from students who have lost loved ones to prescription drug overdoses and I have grieved with far too many parents who have lost children the very same way.
Dr. Karen Shay and Mike Donta are two of those parents.
19-year-old Sarah Shay of Morehead died of a prescription drug overdose in 2006, and 24-year-old Michael Donta of Ashland lost his battle with prescription painkiller abuse in 2010.
Since their passing, Karen and Mike have been instrumental in the success of our Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program. So far, they have helped me educate more than 25,000 students, teachers and parents all over the commonwealth about this dangerous addiction, and they’ve shared the stories of their own losses. I cannot imagine the pain these two parents have lived through, but their passion for reaching out to students about the dangers of prescription drug abuse is inspiring.
That’s why I was proud to announce that, in memory of their children, two high school seniors affected by prescription drug abuse will now have an opportunity for a second chance. In September, my office, along with the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI), the Prosecutors Advisory Council, and Karen and Mike, unveiled the details of two $1500 scholarships that eligible students can apply for now.
In May of 2014, the Sarah Shay and Michael Donta Memorial Scholarships for Hope and Healing will be awarded to one young man and one young woman who have excelled in their personal and academic endeavors despite seeing their family adversely affected by the dangers of prescription drug abuse.
This scholarship program was actually Karen’s idea. She called my office after some of her friends and colleagues sold t-shirts as a fundraiser for the Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program because they knew how special it was to her. Karen and Mike have both lost their children, but they are fighting to help make sure other parents don’t experience the same reality.
I also refuse to lose another generation to this addiction and I am grateful that this money will help two young people get a fresh start and a chance at completing their college education. You can learn more about the scholarships by visiting our website at ag.ky.gov/rxabuse.
While visiting the website, middle and high school students can also learn how to get involved in our annual video PSA competition. As part of the competition, students produce a 30-second video showing the risks of prescription drug abuse. The winners also receive great prizes donated by NADDI and the Kentucky Pharmacists Association.
Last year, the Clark County Youth ASAP Network produced the winning video. In it, the group sends a message to parents encouraging them to dispose of their unused or expired prescription drugs in a drug disposal drop box.
This competition is just one component of our statewide initiative to warn Kentucky kids about the devastating consequences of prescription drug abuse. I encourage students to participate, and I am looking forward to all of the great and informative videos that will be produced. Our young people need to realize that it is never okay to take a prescription pill that isn’t prescribed to them by a doctor.
Finally, I want you to know that we are doing everything we can in the Office of the Attorney General to raise public awareness about the abuse of prescription drugs. This is a problem that is crippling the Commonwealth and killing Kentuckians, and no family is impervious to its effects.