Operation UNITE has been using law enforcement to fight the war on drugs and now the drug task force is turning to local teens to keep drug use from even starting.
UNITE has made nearly two thousand drug related arrests in the past three years and now they are hoping Eastern Kentucky's youth will take on leadership roles in anti-drug programs.
Dora Caldwell is 16 years old and is home schooled because of the growing number of teens using drugs.
"Well some of the teachers would chase kids into the bathrooms and catch them before they flush their stashes," said Caldwell.
UNITE is working to encourage teens like Dora to stand up for themselves and join the war on drugs.
Elizabeth Wilson with UNITE says they will begin recruiting students to take on community leadership roles in various anti-drug programs, such as theater groups, mentorship’s and even joining heads of community coalitions in making decisions.
"People know that the Fifth Congressional District and Eastern Kentucky communities are not accepting or tolerating a drug culture any longer, so we're thrilled that we now have the opportunity to turn to youth," Wilson said.
UNITE officials want to educate teens about the dangers of drug use. Wilson says more importantly, they hope teens will encourage each other to not use drugs.
"Research has shown that youth who have more assets are less likely to engage in high risk activities and some of those are drug and alcohol use," Wilson said.
Carolyn Caldwell is Dora's mother and she says she is pleased UNITE plans to strengthen Kentucky's youth.
"When she was in elementary school she had the DARE program and stuff like that, but it don't seem like they do stuff like that for high school kids as much," Caldwell said.
Wilson says they are currently educating all UNITE officers and directors on the new youth based program so they can all work together to educate teens.
UNITE officials say the task force will continue to hunt down drug suspects, but with greater focus on major traffickers. Until recently, the emphasis had been on low-level street dealers.
UNITE officials say they plan on starting their youth initiative at the beginning of the new year.