PIKEVILLE – Dr. Robert Califf, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), heard concerns and comments about the growing prescription opioid epidemic during a visit to southeastern Kentucky August 18, 2016.
“It’s obvious that this is a crushing epidemic … and you are in the epicenter,” Califf said during a stop at Pikeville Medical center as part of a multi-state listening tour.
Califf called the luncheon roundtable – where he learned about community response and recovery efforts from medical providers and UNITE coalition representatives – eye-opening. “The opioid crisis is real in our country. The pharmaceutical industry is the force behind it.”
Dr. William T. Fannin, a Pikeville physician who lost a son to an overdose and serves as Medical Director for Appalachian Hospice Care, asked Califf “to educate us better (and) give us medications that are safer to use.”
“Whenever we made pain the fifth vital sign is when we began to have problems,” Fannin said. “It was a horrible idea.”
Education was a common theme among participants.
Pikeville Medical Center Chief of Staff Dr. Jerry King said patients need to know more about pain management. “Doctors need educated on drugs and how we distribute them. Patients are going to have pain, we know that. But we need to monitor the amount of pain medicine they are getting.”
UNITE Board Member Cheryl Hickman, vice-president of Pikeville Medical Center, added that “education has to start in kindergarten. These kids have to understand the consequences” of taking drugs.
Several presenters praised the state’s mandating use of the KASPER (Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting) system, which tracks controlled-substance prescription.
Many participants urged greater use of abuse-deterrent medications and better control over drugs designed to help battle opioid dependence.
Former addict Chad Webb, one of the first UNITE Voucher program recipients who was recently pardoned by former Governor Steve Beshear, said he didn’t understand why drugs such as Suboxone are needed. “That’s not sobriety” to substitute one drug for another.
“It is hard to come off of Suboxone,” noted Glenda Shrum, Knott County Drug Court Coordinator and Chair of the Knott Drug Abuse Council. “Somebody has to educate these people as to how dangerous and addictive this is.”
Joel Thornberry, a Pikeville pharmacist and past-President of the Kentucky Board of Pharmacy, said the FDA should be able to require limits on the use of Suboxone.
“I am the one who put Chad (Webb) into jail,” commented Ron Burchett, a prosecuting attorney and member of the Pikeville Medical Center Board of Directors. “Suboxone is one of the most trafficked drugs on the street. Doctors are compassionate and want to help people, but sometimes they are naive.”
Participants in the roundtable discussion included:
- Nancy Hale, UNITE President/CEO
- Walter E. May, Pikeville Medical Center President/CEO
- Marionette Little, UNITE Service Corps Co-Director, Executive Board member of the UNITE Pike Coalition, and a career educator with the Pike County schools
- Chad Corum, a pharmacist who serves on the UNITE Board of Directors
- Cheryl Hickman, Pikeville Medical Center Vice-President and Assistant to the President/CEO
- Claudia Greenwood, Chair of the Knox County UNITE Coalition
- Glenda Shrum, Knott County Drug Court Coordinator and Chair of the Knott Drug Abuse Council
- Emily Waller, a UNITE Scholarship recipient whose family was impacted because of addiction
- Van Ingram, Dxecutive Director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy
- Dave Hopkins, who oversees the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting (KASPER) program within the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services/li>
- Dr. William T. Fannin, a Pikeville physician who lost a son to an overdose and serves as Medical Director for Appalachian Hospice Care
- Joel Thornberry, a Pikeville pharmacist and past-President of the Kentucky Board of Pharmacy
- Chad Webb, one of the first UNITE Voucher program recipients who was recently pardoned by former Governor Steve Beshear
- Rodney Scott, Pike County Sheriff and former Jailer who oversaw WestCare Kentucky’s jail drug treatment programs
- Dr. WIlliam T. Betz, Chair of the Pikeville Osteopathic Medical School.
- Russell Roberts, Pike County Coroner
- Tom Salyer, Johnson County Schools Superintendent
- Dr. David Weber, Pikeville Medical Center Pain Management Specialist
- Dr. Jerry King, Pikeville Medical Center Chief of Staff
- Dr. Aaron Crum, Pikeville Medical Center Chief Medical Officer
- Ron Burchett, a prosecuting attorney and member of the Pikeville Medical Center Board of Directors