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New federal Drug Czar talks about tackling Northern Kentucky's heroin epidemic

Tana Weingartner

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and National Drug Control Policy Director Michael Botticelli say tackling the Commonwealth's drug problems will take a bipartisan effort.

The pair attended a Northern Kentucky Chamber luncheon Thursday talking about the region's heroin epidemic.

Botticelli, whose position is often referred to as 'drug czar,' says everyone should be concerned.

Botticelli encourages companies to have programs to help employees who may have problems. He says there are federal grants to help communities as well... and he praises Northern Kentucky's unified task force approach, saying it's important to develop community-based solutions.

Botticelli blames high heroin addiction numbers on pain medications being vastly over-prescribed.

Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU
Emily Walden holds a picture of her son, Kentucky National Guardsman T.J. Walden, who died of an overdose. Thursday would have been his 24th birthday.

Emily Walden of STOPPnow Kentucky puts the over-prescribing issue squarely on the shoulders of "big pharma." She wants the FDA and other organizations to hold pharmaceutical manufacturers more accountable and to higher standards.

At the luncheon, Walden encouraged McConnell and Botticelli to do just that. Thursday would have been her son T.J.'s 24th birthday. Instead, she says, he died three years ago of an Opana overdose.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.