Prescription Drugs ‘Orphan’ Children in Eastern Kentucky
This area of eastern Kentucky is known for lush, green hillsides and white picket fences. It is a place where bluegrass music may be heard trailing off when a car passes by, where “downtown” is a two-block stretch of quaint shops.
Life here may seem simple, but a darkness has been quietly nestling itself into the community.
“Rockcastle County is averaging one drug-related death per week,” said Nancy Hale, an anti-drug activist and educator. “When your county is a little over 16,000 people and you’re losing a person a week … you’re losing a whole generation.”
The generation being lost, Hale said, is parents. An inordinate number of children in Rockcastle County — and in neighboring areas in eastern Kentucky — are living without them.
Rx for trouble: Prescription overdosing Clinton: U.S. popping too many pills Prescription drugs can be dangerous
According to 2010 census data, more than 86,000 children in Kentucky are being raised by someone who is not their biological parent — mostly grandparents — and many here blame those fractured families on prescription drugs.
“I know a little girl who found her father dead of a drug overdose, found her uncle dead of a drug overdose, and now she’s living with her aunt,” said Karen Kelly, executive director of Operation UNITE, a community coalition devoted to preventing overdose deaths in Kentucky.
“The kids really are the ones paying the biggest price.”