HAZARD – Kentucky River Properties, LLC, has pledged $500,000 to the Operation UNITE Foundation over the next five years to provide substance abuse treatment.

The first $100,000 installment was formally presented to UNITE Director Karen Engle and Fifth District Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers during a dinner held at Hazard Community and Technical College on January 25.

“We are proud to support Operation UNITE’s efforts to provide substance abuse treatment for residents in Southeastern Kentucky,” said Fred Parker, president of Kentucky River Properties. “Our company’s philosophy is to provide as much support as possible to schools, families and organizations within our service region, and our board members felt this is one of the best investments we could make.”

The funding will be used to provide $80,000 per year in UNITE treatment vouchers to low-income residents of Perry, Knott, Leslie and Letcher counties. In addition, $20,000 per year will go to support Drug Court programs in each of these four counties.

UNITE currently provides vouchers up to $3,000 for short-term treatment (up to 89 days) and up to $5,000 for long-term treatment (90 days or more).

“This means at least 80 people will be able to receive help for their addictions over the next five years because of Kentucky River Properties’ donation,” Engle noted.

Drug Courts – a special court given the responsibility to handle cases involving drug-addicted non-violent offenders through an extensive supervision and treatment program – is a non-adversarial team approach to criminal behavior resulting from drug addiction.

While all Drug Courts are now operated through the Administrative Office of the Courts, UNITE community coalitions frequently assist in providing resources for graduations, transportation needs and other basic essentials.

“The money will be a tremendous asset to individuals trying to get their life back on track,” said Engle. “Many times people are overwhelmed with the recovery process and feel hopeless in finding a way to obtain basic necessities. Having funding for one-time needs can make the difference in whether or not an addict graduates and ultimately changes his or her lifestyle once and for all.”

Drug Court judges will determine how the Kentucky River Properties funding will be allocated in each county.

Rogers noted that treatment is an essential element in any long-term strategy to reduce substance abuse.

“A real threat to the communities within the Fifth District comes from the increasing prevalence of substance abuse,” Rogers stated. “Nearly every family has experienced the pain inflicted through abuse of prescription or illegal drugs.”

“Consequently, these problems migrate into our workplaces. Coal, oil and gas operations are no exception,” Rogers continued. “When team members or potential employees struggle against addiction, either directly or within their families, this creates real safety concerns, loss of productivity, and greater liability issues.”

With addiction threatening to destroy the basic fabric of society, it is vital for those most dependant upon a vibrant economy to step forward to help meet the critical needs, Rogers noted. “Kentucky River Properties has made a huge commitment to invest in the future of an entire region.”

The donation has already had a noticeable impact.

“We place an average of 23 people per month into a residential substance abuse program through the UNITE Voucher Program,” Engle said. “Under normal circumstances individuals in need of treatment would be placed on a waiting list, which typically runs about one month. In these four counties we will be able to eliminate this wait once they have met the qualification guidelines.”

Kentucky River Properties is a land company formed in 2002 after a restructuring of its parent company, Kentucky River Coal Corporation.

The company, which has offices in Hazard, Henderson and Lexington, owns approximately 250,000 acres in Breathitt, Clay, Harlan, Knott, Leslie, Letcher and Perry counties. Most of its income is generated from leases to about 25 coal companies with operations on these properties. Income is also derived from oil and gas sales and royalties, timber sales and surface rentals.

“Kentucky’s abundant coal resource and its oil and natural gas industries play a vital role in this nation’s energy plans,” Parker stated. “Substance abuse threatens to destroy the infrastructure so vital to our future. We are in a position to do something about this threat by helping Operation UNITE provide much-needed treatment.”