LEXINGTON – “Protecting our youth and investing in prevention is part of our strategy” in using opioid settlement funds, Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley told his fellow county leaders. But, he noted, none of the county’s opioid abatement funding would be used unless it has the support of the Harlan County UNITE Coalition.

“UNITE has been one of the greatest organizations in our region,” Mosley said. “Kentucky is really leading the nation in this fight with the seeds (Operation UNITE) is planting in communities.”

Mosley – along with Operation UNITE’s President & CEO Tom Vicini, UNITE Prevention Programs Assistant Carl Varney, and KY HELP Statewide Call Center Director Jamie Gilliam – presented three sessions on “Taking a Community-based Approach to Prevent Substance Misuse” during the Kentucky County Judge-Executive Association’s 42nd Annual Winter Conference.

A total of 116 judge-executives and county magistrates attended the breakout sessions presented by Operation UNITE.

For 20 years, Operation UNITE has been serving counties in the current or former Fifth Congressional District, represented by Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers. It was Rogers who created Operation UNITE in 2003 in response to a series of articles that exposed the addiction and corruption associated with drug abuse in southern and eastern Kentucky largely related to OxyContin.

Each of the 33 counties in Operation UNITE’s primary service region have an established community coalition that works to implement education and treatment initiatives while supporting the investigative component.

Operation UNITE’s growth includes the creation of the national Rx and Illicit Drug Summit, and now serves as the Rx Summit’s educational advisor. Operation UNITE also operates the KY HELP Statewide Call Center and the UNITE Service Corps (AmeriCorps) program, teaching the “Too Good For Drugs” curriculum in 62 schools, Vicini said.

As Operation UNITE has grown – it created and serves as the educational advisor for the national Rx and Illicit Drug Summit, operates the KY HELP Statewide Call Center, and implemented a drug awareness component to its UNITE Service Corps (AmeriCorps) program – so has demand for its programs, Vicini said.

While it has shared resources and developed partnerships across Kentucky for years, only recently have youth prevention programs been made available to counties outside its service region.