Pubdate: Mon, 21 Apr 2003
Source: Daily Independent, The (KY)
Copyright: 2003 The Daily Independent, Inc.
Author: Kirsten Stanley


LOUISA - There's a drug epidemic sweeping through Eastern Kentucky, U.S. 
Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers says, and it needs to be stopped before more lives 
are destroyed.

Rogers recently announced details of an initiative aimed at combating what 
he calls "the worst scourge we've ever faced."

The congressman helped secure $8 million in funding for the creation of the 
Unlawful Narcotics Investigation Treatment and Education (UNITE) program, 
which is aimed at bringing together law enforcement officials, health care 
professionals, government officials and concerned citizens to fight local 
drug abuse.

"These drugs have torn families apart, ruined lives and stretched the 
resources of law enforcement and social service agencies to the absolute 
limit," Rogers said.

He said he hopes that the program will help the region kick the drug habit.

The federal program creates drug task forces in 29 counties in the Big 
Sandy - which includes Lawrence and Rowan counties - Kentucky River and 
Cumberland Valley regions.

The first regional meetings about the implementation of the program will be 
held this month.

Lawrence County Sheriff Garrett Roberts said he has received information 
about UNITE, but the details are sketchy.

"Anything that is going to help us locally, I am in support of," Roberts 
said. "We want to get this stuff off the streets."

Over the past few years, the number of drug arrests in Lawrence County has 
skyrocketed, he said. In March, Roberts' office made 32 arrests, 15 were 
for drug-related charges.

Arrests for drugs such as methamphetamine and cocaine are also becoming 
more common, the sheriff said.

Rogers said each local drug task force will have its own director and 
board. Initially, one federally-trained agent will be assigned to each 
county to work with local law enforcement personnel to target corrupt 
health care professionals, Medicare and Medicaid fraud and street-level 

He said the task forces will go "up the hills and hollows in our region" to 
find those who are dealing drugs.

UNITE will also work toward the coordination of drug treatment services, 
the development of drug courts and the enhancement of existing anti-drug 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Larry Stevens