Budget Cuts Force Layoffs At Operation UNITE

SOMERSET, Ky. (AP) - An eastern Kentucky task force that takes a
three-pronged approach to battling drugs is laying off employees
because of federal funding cuts.
Operation UNITE has made 2,400 drug-related arrests in the past five years and provided money for drug treatment and education. The
task force has so far laid off 10 police officers and two staffers,
though organizers say it will continue its core mission.
Karen Engle, UNITE president and CEO, said the initiative now has 23 police officers, down from 40 officers at its peak. But it remains the largest drug task force in the state, she said.
"We're not going away," Engle vowed. "We have tightened our belts and restructured the organization so that UNITE can fight the drug scourge over the long haul."
She said the organization has applied for grants and is looking at other potential money sources, including corporate sponsorships.
Republican Congressman Hal Rogers of Somerset founded UNITE in
2003. It's three-prong mission is evident in its acronym: Unlawful
Narcotics Investigations, Treatment and Education.
Rogers, a committee chairman when the Republicans controlled the
House of Representatives, got $8 million earmarked for UNITE each
year of its first three years and then upped that to $9.1 million in 2006-07. But the initiative got nothing for 2007 after Democrats took control of Congress and suspended earmarks while tinkering with the system.
UNITE got through 2007 with carryover money, but in the budget
President Bush signed last month, it received only about $4 million.
Rogers said he started the program in response to a series of
Lexington Herald-Leader reports that said eastern Kentucky led the
nation in the amount of painkillers prescribed per capita and that rural police staffs were shorthanded, among other issues.
Randy Poff, a sheriff's deputy in Perry County, credits the task force with helping control the region's drug problems.
"A couple of years ago, you could walk down Main Street here in
Hazard and have people ask to sell you drugs or ask to buy drugs from you," Poff said. "But you don't hear of that happening now. Drug dealers are scared that the person asking to buy is an undercover UNITE officer."
Communities will expect local police to take up the slack, but they can't, said Pike County Sheriff Charles "Fuzzy" Keesee.
"We just can't do the job that UNITE does in fighting illegal drug abuse. We don't have the money, the personnel or the time to even make a dent in this war," Keesee said.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by denny Location: lagrange on Jan 16, 2008 at 04:35 AM
    were is your office, i need some pill's for my headache man. just send it through the mail.
  • by denny Location: lagrange on Jan 15, 2008 at 02:27 PM
    dr rich, were is your office, i have a head-ache and need some lor-a-tabs, e-mail me
  • by dr rich Location: ky&wv. on Jan 15, 2008 at 01:46 PM
    y don,t they stop the pill pushing dr,s.becuse that wood stop 50% of drug dealers and put unite out off a job. off wasteing our $$$.if they realy wanted drug dealers.they wood just go to the docters office where they pass it out to our youner genernation
  • by Tina Location: Owingsville on Jan 15, 2008 at 12:23 PM
    I wish all drug dealers were off the street. But, from what I have seen out of the judicial system is that once these guys have been taken to jail then the court gives them a slap on the wrist and sends them on their merry way. Operation Unite can't be successful until the judicial system is overhauled. So at least for now, giving money to this operation is the same as putting money into bags with holes- useless.
  • by denny Location: lagrange on Jan 15, 2008 at 08:18 AM
    I hope the governor cuts the states retirement system out, so the cops and judges and guards in the prisons will quit and get a respectable job. I mean come on, what kind of job is it to arrest people for making a living, this is a free country right. I mean free enterprise should be employed and let us continue to sell what the people want. I'm still celebrating, but i'll throw a big party when unite is disbanded for-ever, good bye rat cops. denny
  • by johnny Location: east ky on Jan 15, 2008 at 04:53 AM
    bill and virgil east ky is not the only place in ky that has a drug problem.idont know where you live but just look around an i will bet some one clost to you either sells or uses pills.i do not use pills or draw ssi or welfare.but i dont belive you should run your mouth about eastern ky when the drug problem is all over the state of ky.maby you should get out of your deep dark cave an look around
  • by Drug dealer Location: your home town on Jan 14, 2008 at 07:34 PM
    Get rid of all of em !!! I can stay high and sell everything I need to make a good living without looking over my back all the time now. I love America and I hate all the cops who keep arresting Me just because I make my living selling the drugs that are high in demand. Who cares, looks like the Government dont, So I'll sell My product to anyone who wants to buy it. Fire em all, Thats what I say....
  • by paul Location: lex on Jan 14, 2008 at 06:32 PM
    legalize marijuana, i wonder how much of unites money goes to combatting just that... with the money saved on that front then go after the doctors that are over prescribing this stuff. I think this is a shame folks, the real drug problems are pills crack and meth... all of that became hugely popular when they stepped up marijuana eradication.
  • by Bill on Jan 14, 2008 at 06:05 PM
    I have seen many friends and neighbors die this past year,all because of a pill they call oxies.now these pills are not made in some ones back yard.they are givin to people the doctors want see comming back. Like those on fed meds,the goverment pays for them in most case's.Those that don't die, suffer even more by going to jail,and losing all they have.=Why are we locking up so many people.When all they have to do is cut off the pills.Its an industry,supporting jobs while our people suffer.Theres no way on earth to hire enough police,or jail enough people,to stop the selling of this free dope.Now thats a fact to think about.
  • by Randy on Jan 14, 2008 at 04:26 PM
    Good luck with that meth lab denny.
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