MT. VERNON – A new drug prevention initiative designed to provide youth another way to resist peer pressure to experiment with drugs was launched in Rockcastle County Tuesday, October 14.

The “Give Me A Reason” program – a collaborative effort by the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (AHIDTA) and Operation UNITE – will provide free saliva-based drug test kits to parents through distribution sites located throughout the county.

“It’s a voluntary program to help you make positive choices,” Fifth District Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers told students and community members attending the ceremony. “We want to give you every possible means to help you succeed in life, and staying away from drugs is at the top of the list.”

“With this new drug testing program we want you to know that your parents care, and there are people in your community who will hold you accountable,” Rogers continued. “Most importantly, if you have a problem, we want to use this as a way to help you – not punish you – and give your parents resources to help.”

“Give Me A Reason” was envisioned by Frank Rapier, executive director of AHIDTA.

Rapier, a 49-year law enforcement veteran, stressed that the purpose of the prevention initiative is to keep youth from experimenting with drugs and to get help for those already involved.

“If parents have a drug test kit at home their children hopefully will think twice before giving in to peer pressure to try drugs,” Rapier said. “The possibility of being drug tested gives youth a reason to say ‘no’ when placed in these situations.”

Drug test kits are currently available from 13 sites in Rockcastle County. A list of locations is available on the Operation UNITE website.

Plans are to expand the pilot program to Pike County starting in November, with the ultimate goal of having kits available in all UNITE and AHIDTA counties in Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee and Virginia.

A benefit of the saliva-based test kit is that it can be administered within the privacy of your own home, with results remaining completely confidential if parents so choose. The non-invasive test can be produce results within about 10 minutes.

“If there is a positive result, we are providing resources for parents to turn to for help,” said Dan Smoot, president/CEO of Operation UNITE.

“It’s not about trust, but about showing how much you care,” Smoot said. “Your kids, on a daily basis, make hundreds of decisions. There is no more important decision you can make than to remain drug-free.”

“It doesn’t take very many bad decisions before you are in a terrible situation yourself,” agreed John Hale, chairman of the Rockcastle County UNITE Coalition and former principal at Rockcastle High School. “This is a problem that will strike anyone, anywhere, anytime.”

“We want to give you another reason to be able to say ‘no’ when someone offers you something you know you shouldn’t take or wants you to do something you know you shouldn’t do,” Hale added. “No one here is out to get you. We’re out to help you anyway we can.”

“Too many families have experienced the pain and sorrow caused by drug abuse. It’s very personal to me and I want you to see that,” Hale said, noting he just lost a niece within the last week to drugs and struggled (successfully) through a years-long battle with his son’s addiction.

“Remember,” Hale concluded, “You didn’t cause it – it was here long before you came along. You can’t cure it – it takes many people working together to cure the problem. And, you can take care of yourself by staying drug free.”