State Leaders Discuss UNITE Funding

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It could mean no layoffs for Operation UNITE, but it's still just a temporary fix.

Monday, UNITE officials and state legislators announced a bill for emergency money to keep all UNITE officers on the streets. Some people affected by drugs say this money is going to make a big difference.

People who packed into the London-Laurel Tourist Commission Office Monday afternoon face the impact of drug abuse every day.

"It has destroyed families, lives," said Carolyn Wilson.

"We were losing on average one young person a week. We just couldn't afford that anymore," said Nancy Hale.

Now Operation UNITE can't afford to keep 12 of its staff and fully fund all of its programs. State Senators Robert Stivers and Tom Jensen are introducing a bill to give Operation UNITE $450,000 dollars to save those jobs, and the people they serve through the end of this fiscal year.

"It won't happen on our watch that we fail to have the commitment to try to rid ourselves and give our children the dreams we want them to have," Senator Stivers said.

Stivers says he's confident the bill will make it to the governor's desk because the money would come from the multi-county regional economic development fund, an area he says is safe from budget cuts.

"This is not an area the governor is looking at to do any type of budget cutbacks. It is a fund that is statutorily designated to go back into the counties from which it came," Stivers said.

U.S. Representative Hal Rogers says thanks to UNITE, Eastern Kentucky is the only region in the state showing a significant decrease in the number of dispensed narcotics, all the more reason the state should chip in.

"It's easy to get media coverage for a roundup or arresting drug dealers. I don't know that people understand the impact we're having on recovery, treatment, and education," said Karen Engle with Operation UNITE.

If it passes, the bill could take effect by the end of the month.

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