SOMERSET (4-9-10) – A free symposium designed to facilitate a unified approach to Pulaski County’s drug problems will be held at The Center For Rural Development on Thursday, April 29.

“Pulaski County was selected for this symposium because it has so much to offer – and so much to lose – if substance abuse is allowed to spread,” said Karen Engle, director of UNITE.

“We know there are many organizations doing great things and believe these efforts could benefit from greater knowledge of, and collaboration with, each other,” Engle said. “There is strength in numbers. We want to help mesh all components by taking count of assets already in place, finding out what needs are not being met, and what capabilities are going underutilized.”

The program begins with a continental breakfast at 8 a.m. and continues until 3 p.m. Lunch will be provided.

Sponsored by the Kentucky Army National Guard and Operation UNITE, the symposium features presenters from the medical, judicial, faith-based, education, media and addiction recovery fields and will conclude with a panel discussion.

Included on the agenda will be a presentation by Col. Steve Robinson highlighting findings from a Strategic Studies Group Initiative conducted last year by the National Guard. That study looked at four specific areas of substance abuse: security, information, government and economics. Counter Drug Coordinator Col. Stephen Hogan and Deputy Coordinator Lt. Col. Karlas Owens will also share information from the National Guard.

Other presenters include Dr. Michael Citak, chief medical officer for Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital; Pastor Mark Harrell, Victory Christian Fellowship; Commonwealth’s Attorney Eddy Montgomery; Chad’s Hope Teen Challenge Center; Neil Middleton, station manager for WYMT television; Jack McNeely, publisher of the Commonwealth Journal; Pastor Doug Abner, Community Church of Manchester; and Kathy Hall, chair of the Pulaski County UNITE Coalition.

A variety of organizations will have displays showcasing what is currently available, and the Pulaski County UNITE Coalition will provide a comprehensive guide to current services available in the community.

“Those directly impacted by substance abuse are well aware of the devastating impacts, but the truth is each of us is affected in some way,” Engle said. “The drug problem is not harmless; it is neither discriminatory nor selective. Unfortunately, until we encounter the issue we don’t realize the sense of urgency to act.”

To view photos from the event click here.