When I was first elected as your Attorney General, I promised to fight the cycle of addiction plaguing our commonwealth. Since that time, I created Kentucky’s first statewide prescription drug abuse task force, and I helped craft landmark legislation that has shut down half of this state’s pain clinics. Additionally, through my Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program, I’ve traveled across Kentucky educating our kids about the dangers of prescription drug abuse and heroin. Joining me along the way have been two concerned parents, Dr. Karen Shay and Mike Donta, who have both lost their children to prescription drug abuse.
Karen and Mike are invaluable to the work we’re doing in the Office of the Attorney General to combat this scourge in Kentucky. Last September, in the memories of their children, we created two $1,500 college scholarships, “The Sarah Shay and Michael Donta Memorial Scholarships for Hope and Healing,” to help high school seniors whose lives have been impacted by prescription drug abuse.
My office received dozens of scholarship applications from students across Kentucky. Many of the students shared stories about how a close family member or friend ended up in jail because of prescription drugs. Others wrote to us about how they’re now forced to live each day with the pain of losing a loved one to an overdose. These are the stories I often hear as I travel throughout Kentucky, and they are the stories that strengthen my commitment to fighting addiction in our communities.
Joined in Frankfort by Karen and Mike, I announced in May that Kimberly Barrett, a graduate of Owsley County High School, and Josh Hollan, a graduate of Hazard High School, were selected as the first recipients of the Sarah Shay and Michael Donta Memorial Scholarships. Kimberly and Josh are two incredibly determined teens from Eastern Kentucky who have embraced positive lifestyles, excelling in both their personal and academic lives, despite seeing firsthand the devastating consequences of prescription drug abuse.
During their high school careers, Kimberly and Josh participated in numerous community service and extracurricular activities, held down part-time jobs, and maintained excellent GPAs. I commend both of these very deserving teens on their hard work, and I wish them only the best as they pursue their college degrees.
In the fall, Kimberly will be attending the University of Kentucky, and Josh will be attending Hazard Community & Technical College. Josh even told me that he wants to obtain a law degree and help Kentucky families and children who may be facing situations similar to what he’s experienced. The Sarah Shay and Michael Donta Memorial Scholarship program is helping these two Kentucky teens achieve their goals and break the cycle of addiction. I’m proud that it will continue to make a difference in the lives of future students who have been impacted by the devastating effects of prescription drug abuse.
In addition to investing in education, I am committed to increasing access to substance abuse treatment. We’re using $32 million from settlements my office reached with two pharmaceutical companies to help expand treatment for youth and adults statewide, which includes completing construction on a new adult treatment center near Ashland, funding 900 treatment scholarships at Recovery Kentucky centers, and saving two treatment programs for pregnant women. Nineteen-million dollars from the settlement fund is also being used for “KY Kids Recovery,” a grant program created to fund new juvenile treatment beds and/or centers across Kentucky.
The Substance Abuse Treatment Advisory Committee, which I chair, is currently working to maximize these grants to fund the most promising, sustainable and needed treatment proposals brought to us by the nonprofits, providers, and public-private partnerships throughout Kentucky. I am excited about these proposals, and I know that our efforts will help build better lives for many Kentuckians struggling with addiction. Working together, we can fight this disease and help make Kentucky a safer place to live, work, and raise our families.