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Attorney General Loretta Lynch Visits Kentucky Amid Heroin Surge

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Ryland Barton
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U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch warned high school students about the dangers of heroin and opioid abuse at an assembly in Richmond on Tuesday.

The visit was part of an Obama administration initiative to educate people about heroin and prescription painkiller abuse.

Lynch is the nation’s top law enforcement official, but she said the heroin and opioid problem isn’t just a law enforcement crisis, it’s a moral one.

“…A test of whether we here in the United States can protect our children, our friends, our neighbors, our fellow citizens from the scourge of addiction,” Lynch said.

Heroin overdoses have surged recently in Kentucky — reports from Northern Kentucky, Louisville, Lexington and smaller cities like Mt. Sterling have linked the spike to doses of heroin laced with fentanyl, a potent pain killer.

Before a crowd of about 500 from around Madison County, Lynch encouraged students to look out for each other and help those already addicted find treatment. She said that heroin abuse often starts with abuse of a legitimate prescription.

“It’s totally legal, it can literally be for legitimate pain or problem surgery and someone comes away with way too many pills or people save pills and the kids are curious and they start using them and they get addicted,” Lynch said.

According to the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, drug overdose deaths ticked up to 1,248 in 2015 from more than 1,071 in 2014.

Lynch also said law enforcement is focused on cracking down on drug dealers.

“They see dollar signs where we see young people and their futures,” Lynch said. “We still in the federal government will be focusing our enforcement efforts on those dealers, on the distribution networks, on people who are bringing heroin into communities.”

The White House has called on Congress to approve $1.1 billion to fund the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which Congress passed in July with no new funding.

“We’re hopeful that Congress will also take up this cause,” Lynch said. “This is an issue that cuts across party lines, community lines, socioeconomic lines and we certainly call upon Congress to take up this issue.”

Congress is currently in the midst of negotiating a temporary appropriations bill, which has to pass before a recess until the November election.

Ryland is the state capitol reporter for the Kentucky Public Radio Network, a group of public radio stations including WKU Public Radio. A native of Lexington, Ryland has covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin.
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