HAZARD – The first of four town hall-style public forums to solicit input on combating the state’s substance abuse problems will be held 5 p.m. Monday, January 11, at the new Perry County Library, 289 Black Gold Blvd., in Hazard.

A major focus of the four forums is to engage health care providers and medical professionals in seeking workable solutions to the drug problem and to address safety concerns being raised throughout the medical community in the wake of the drug-related murder of Dr. Dennis Sandlin in December.

“I believe this will be a good opportunity to discuss issues we face every day, educate ourselves about the latest trends, and brainstorm both immediate and long-term solutions,” said Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo.

Other forums, which also begin at 5 p.m., will be held:

• Monday, January 25, at The Atrium at Pikeville Medical Center, 911 South Bypass Road, Pikeville.

• Monday, February 8, at the Bell-Whitley Community Action Agency, 129 Pine Street, Pineville.

• Monday, February 22, at the Carl D. Perkins Community Center on KY 32 in Morehead.

The forums will involve individuals from all walks of life and will include discussions on the growing prescription drug abuse problems and the crimes associated with it, improving healthcare provider safety, and expanding drug treatment and prevention programs.

“We have already been approached by many medical providers asking how they can avoid unwittingly becoming part of the problem,” said Karen Engle, director of Operation UNITE. “They want to know what they can do in their own practices, how they can recognize substance abuse, and what help is available if problems are suspected.”

Information obtained from the forums will be incorporated into a region-wide medical symposium scheduled for March 6 at The Hal Rogers Forum, 101 Bulldog Lane, in Hazard.

Others involved in supporting the endeavor include representatives from the Office of Drug Control Policy, Kentucky law enforcement, the Kentucky Pharmacist Association, the Kentucky Hospital Association, state legislators, and Dr. Sandlin’s daughter Danielle Sandlin.