LONDON – The final version of a two-year state budget approved by lawmakers and Governor Matt Bevin provides funding for Operation UNITE (Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment and Education) and signals a commitment to continue Kentucky’s national leadership on reversing this country’s opioid epidemic.
“This opioid abuse problem is resulting in a life being lost every 20 minutes in this country,” said Nancy Hale, president and CEO of UNITE. “It’s tearing apart families and devastating communities. Governor Matt Bevin and the Legislature are to be commended for understanding the importance of this issue and making it a priority.”
“UNITE’s strategy of getting key advocates, treatment providers, policy-makers and law enforcement to work together to create a multi-faceted solution to this troubling epidemic is positively impacting the region and serving as a national model.”
Currently UNITE’s prevention and treatment initiatives include:
- “On The Move!” – a one-of-a-kind initiative targeting students in 7th and 10th grades. Provided in partnership with Appalachia HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area), this mobile prevention program utilizes five interactive components related to distracted and impaired driving, and provides real-time data collection aligned with the Kentucky Core Curriculum. More than 12,000 students from 131 schools in 32 counties have completed this program through April 15, 2016.
- UNITE Service Corps – A nationally recognized AmeriCorps initiative with 44 full-time members providing math tutoring and drug abuse prevention education at elementary schools in 13 southern and eastern Kentucky school districts. During the 2014-15 school year, student test stores increased 42.12% for the 1,760 students receiving math tutoring. In addition, test scores increased 40.52% among the 3,815 students receiving drug education and healthy decision-making curricula.
- UNITE Treatment Vouchers – Financial assistance is provided to individuals (youth and adult) for residential treatment for a drug addiction. Through February 2016, UNITE has provided $13 million in vouchers enabling 3,970 individuals to enter a treatment program.
- UNITE Clubs – School-based anti-drug education/prevention clubs featuring mentoring and community service components. This school term there are 7,440 students involved with 96 clubs in 22 counties.
- Community Coalitions – The core of UNITE’s efforts are the volunteer, community-based anti-drug coalitions that work to implement drug prevention, education and recovery initiatives within their individual counties. Coalitions currently exist in each of the 32 counties in UNITE’s service region.
- Drug investigations – UNITE employs three detectives who are assigned to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. These detectives have been involved in some of the largest state and federal cases involving pill-mill operators and drug trafficking organizations. In addition, these detectives are available to assist local law enforcement agencies.
“These are just a few of UNITE’s many initiatives,” Hale said, adding many of these programs have gained national acclaim.
At the end of March, UNITE hosted the fifth annual National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit – recognized as this country’s largest national multi-disciplinary collaboration of advocates and policy-makers. More than 1,900 people representing 49 states, the District of Columbia, two U.S. Territories and four other countries attended the Summit, which featured a panel discussion with President Barack Obama and keynote presentations by the heads of many federal agencies focused on the opioid epidemic.
Another important component in dealing with the drug epidemic – Drug Courts – also received funding in the final budget.
“We also appreciate the restoration of funding for the Drug Courts, which require accountability but also work to help people get the treatment they need to get back to being valued family members, workers and members of the community,” Hale said.