SOMERSET – Kentucky Employers’ Mutual Insurance (KEMI) has partnered with Operation UNITE to help educate the public on the need to safeguard medications in the home.

“As Kentucky’s largest provider of workers’ compensation insurance with more than 21,000 policyholders throughout the state, KEMI is on the front lines of the battle against prescription drug abuse,” said Roger Fries, president and CEO.

KEMI officials delivered 500 medication lockboxes to UNITE on August 8.

The boxes, produced by the physician-led medical product company LockMed, allow individuals to store over-the-counter and prescription medications under a combination lock. In addition, each box includes a label listing UNITE’s toll-free treatment referral number – 1-866-908-6483 – for those seeking help with an addiction.

Kentucky Employers’ Mutual Insurance (KEMI) President/CEO Roger Fries, left, and Vice President/CFO Jon Stewart, right, present one of 500 medication lockboxes to U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers and UNITE Director Karen Kelly on August 8. KEMI is donating the boxes for UNITE’s educational campaign to encourage safe storage of over-the-counter and prescription medicines.

“We strongly believe that we have a responsibility to help protect our policyholders and injured workers from the dangers of drug abuse and misuse,” Fries stated. “We believe this unique alliance with Operation UNITE further demonstrates KEMI’s commitment to taking an active role in combating prescription drug abuse.”

A national study conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University™ in 2011 found 46 percent of all high school students currently use addictive substances, and 1 in 3 meets the medical criteria for addiction. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an estimated 70 percent of teens obtain these drugs from family members or friends – often without their consent.

“We can no longer afford to sit quietly on the sidelines. This epidemic now claims more lives every year through drug overdoses than any other accidental death,” said Fifth District Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers. “In Kentucky, we are losing 82 people a month to drug abuse – more than car crashes.”

“KEMI’s management and staff certainly understand the impact of prescription drug abuse and have committed to being a leader in prevention efforts both within their workforce and in the communities they serve,” Rogers continued. “I commend KEMI’s leadership team for their vision and pro-active efforts to bring about change.”

The lockboxes will be distributed throughout southern and eastern Kentucky as part of UNITE’s “Accidental Dealer” campaign to raise awareness of the need to keep track of all medications in the home.

“In southern and eastern Kentucky, the average age of first-time drug use is 11 years old,” noted Karen Kelly, UNITE director. “Prescription drug abuse – called this nation’s fastest-growing drug problem and classified as an epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – is decimating our youth, tearing apart families, and exacting a terrible toll on communities overwhelmed by the human and economic costs of abuse.”

“Our staff answers more than 1,200 calls each month from individuals coping with an addiction issue, either personally or for a family member,” Kelly said. “The scope of this crisis is simply overwhelming.”

Support Of Youth Initiatives

In addition to the lockbox donation, KEMI has announced it will partner with other youth, community awareness and prevention initiatives.

KEMI recently provided nine employees who served as volunteers for this summer’s Camp UNITE – a free, week-long leadership/adventure program for middle school-age youth held at the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg.

Activities during camp are designed to develop leadership and communication skills, promote teamwork and problem solving, instill confidence and trust, and let youth know they do not have to face difficult situations on their own.

Since its inception in 2007, Camp UNITE has served 1,132 students.