JULIA ROBERTS GOAD
STONE, Ky. - The problem of substance abuse affects an entire community, and all parts of a community should be involved in fighting it, said Jarrod Hunt, Executive Director of UNITE Pike, the local branch of Operation UNITE, an acronym for Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment and Education.
Operation UNITE serves the 29 counties of Kentucky’s Fifth District, including Floyd and Pike.
UNITE uses three-pronged, comprehensive approach deemed necessary to combating substance abuse: undercover narcotics investigations, coordinating treatment for substance abusers and providing support to families and friends of substance abusers, and educating the public about the dangers of using drugs.
Hunt spoke about what he called a massive increase in thefts, break-ins and home invasions in the Pond Creek area, the majority of which are thought to be drug-related.
Hunt said the most effective tool in fighting drug abuse in a community is a group of neighbors united together.
“Neighborhood watches are incredibly beneficial,” he said. “That can accomplish two things - you can observe and report suspicious activity, and you can pressure law enforcement. I know law enforcement has limited resources, but I also think the squeaky wheel gets the grease. They need to know where to direct their resources.”
Hunt said that since the average age of a child when they first use a substance, drugs, alcohol or tobacco, keeps getting younger, it is important to teach children at the elementary level the dangers of drug abuse.
“I was at an elementary school, and a third grader told me ‘Mommy and Daddy crush up pills and snort them,’” Hunt said. “And that child wasn’t the only who said that. Stories like one kid whose father had lost his arm to infection from intravenous drug use, this is these kids’ reality.”
He said while it is important to teach children to read, it is also important to teach them the dangers of drugs.
Another group Hunt said could address drug abuse is the religious community. He addressed that situation from a personal perspective.
“As a former pastor, it breaks my heart, how little our communities of faith are doing,” Hunt said. “They don’t seem to know what to do. Churches are a place where people find hope, comfort, healing, peace. But they are turning away from this problem. They talk about the problem, but have they stopped where they see drug activity? Do they stop and see what we can do to make changes? Do they see what they can do to help the children from these homes?”
But the most primary unit in a community, the family, is where Hunt said drug abuse begins, and is often not addressed. He explained that often, grandparents become primary caregivers when the parents are unable to take care of their children, due to drug abuse or being in jail. He said the grandparents often become what is known as “accidental dealers.” They get a prescription for drugs such as pain medications or tranquilizers, and others find unused drugs, and take them, either to sell or for personal use.
He said grandparents are often simply not prepared to become parents at that stage of their lives.
“A grandparent’s job is to spoil kids,” Hunt said. “But that becomes enabling. The kids get in trouble, and the grandparents keep getting them out of it, Eventually, the trouble gets bigger and bigger, and the grandparents can no longer help.”
Hunt said the medical community is also responsible for the situation with prescription drug abuse, doctors as well as pharmacists.
“The Kentucky Board of Licensure (which approves healthcare providers’ licenses) has a board that they choose, and it is made up of doctors. I think, if they cannot police their own members, we should take that away from them, and put a citizen board in place. That is how people are getting addicted, through doctors and physicians’ assistants.”
He also said legislators need to pass more stringent laws governing doctors and other health care providers, but that lobbying efforts by groups such as drug manufacturers causes a lot of legislation to fail to be passed.
Hunt ended the evening by urging anyone who wants to be involved in the fight against drug abuse, or persons who need help, to contact his office at 606 432-9329, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting their website at unitepike.com.