A federally funded drug task force in eastern Kentucky has come up with another way to fight substance abuse — it will hand out free testing kits to parents.
Frank Rapier, executive director of the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, told the Lexington Herald-Leader that it gives youths “a reason to say no” in the face of peer pressure.
The Appalachia HIDTA and Operation UNITE, which sponsors drug-prevention programs in 32 counties, including Letcher, have partnered for the project. Funding is coming from the Appalachia HIDTA while Operation UNITE is promoting it and distributing kits.
Nancy Hale, a retired educator who is active with UNITE, said 650 kits were delivered last week to 13 distribution points.
The first kits are being handed out in Rockcastle County, where officials announced the pilot program last week during an event attended by students.
Republican U. S. Rep. Hal Rogers, whose 5th District has been hit hard by substance abuse, told the group that the average age for a first-time drug user in the region is 11. He said students would be forced to make a decision.
“At some point, you will be confronted with the decision to use drugs or to remain drug-free,” Rogers said. “You must say no.”
Advocates said the kits won’t be a cure- all, but it will help in the fight by keeping some young people from using drugs and helping parents spot abuse earlier.
“We want to give them as many tools as we can,” Hale said.
The kits can be used at home and give results in about 10 minutes.
Supporters said kits contain information about what to do in the event of a positive result. It won’t be reported to police or other authorities because the goal is to help kids get the help they need to stay off drugs.
“ This is not a gotcha game,” said Rebecca Isaacs, director of student services for the school district. “It is because we care about them.”
Rapier said if the pilot project is successful, he hopes to expand it to all counties in the Appalachia HIDTA.