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Summit tackles county’s drug epidemic

In an effort to tackle the county’s drug problem, the day-long Harlan County Drug Summit was held Monday with an array of experts and guest speakers educating others on the drug epidemic and uniting those willing to tackle substance abuse head on.

Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley said he was “very pleased” with the number of those in attendance, noting over 100 came together to make a difference in the lives of those impacted by drug abuse.

“I was inspired to do this based on what they do at the national level, at the national drug summit, which is a very comprehensive, several-day forum that focuses on all sides of the drug epidemic,” Mosley said. “We have a drug problem here in eastern Kentucky and in Harlan County. We have one in every community across this nation, but how are the resources working in local communities to address that?”

Mosley said he is grateful to the experts who spoke during the event and is inspired by the testimonials he heard as well, adding a lot of educational information was delivered during the summit to help others understand the seriousness of the epidemic and how community members can make a difference.

“I’ve always heard an ounce of prevention is worth a thousand pounds of cure, and that’s the truth,” he said. “If we can keep kids from ever getting on drugs, that’s a large portion of how we step toward getting it addressed.”

Mosley said the summit might become an annual event with more future planning depending on the response from the community, adding it would be his goal to see the Harlan Center full of participants next year.

“There’s a lot of great work going on in this area, but we need more people involved,” Mosley said. “If you weren’t able to come and you want to help, reach out to our office and we’ll plug you in with a way to help.”

Mosley also mentioned the “tiny homes” on display during the event, addressing the concerns of some people in the community.

“There’s been doubts on the project on the perspective of: is it really going to happen and is there really a want for it to happen? There’s some people who have been very critical of it, and here’s the thing about the tiny homes, the subdivision we’re going to be putting in Verda is going to have approximately five tiny homes.”

Mosley said the three homes sitting at the Harlan Center will be a part of the subdivision. The fourth is being built by Christ’s Hands and the fifth being built and donated by a church in northern Kentucky, adding the church plans on building more of them to donate to Harlan in the future.

“We are very thankful for this project,” he said, adding the site work is about to begin. “We were having to wait on grant funding to come about and to tap into the money. It was sitting there for years and had to be used for a public health project. There’s nothing more impactful on public health right now than this addiction problem.”

Mosley said the homes will be used for a transitional housing program for people who will be screened by a panel to determine who will live in them.

“The youth homelessness will be addressed. Kids that are homeless will have the opportunity to live there if they’re above the age of 18 and people who are coming out of treatment programs,” Mosley said, being sure to mention the process will be highly monitored.

“The people that need to be living there are the ones that are going back to an area where they have no hope,” he said. “People who are going back to living under a bridge, people who are going back to live with an abusive spouse, people that are going back to live in the same meth lab they came out of before they went to treatment — that’s the people that will be going to live in a home like this for six months.”

Mosley said there will be a list of requirements the tenants will need to meet in order to live in the subdivision for a six-month period, including finding and keeping a job, enrolling in a career training program and more.

“Anyone who is critical of a project like that is really heartless because they don’t understand the problem, (and) they don’t understand why we must address things long-term to get to a solution. If they realized how much of their tax dollars were being spent to put people in jail, they’d be a lot bigger fans of treatment, transitional housing and other programs that are helping us get to a solution,” Mosley said. “I will gladly sit down with anyone who has any concerns about it, because I have sat down with many already who, after I explain it to them, they leave with no concerns.”

Mosley said more often than not, rumors will be started based off “preconceived notations about what something is because some people like to stir and start problems.”

“We’ll give it a shot and if it looks like it’s not working in a couple years, hey, we’ll do something else with it, but I think it will be a program that will be very valuable to people and we will be able to see true results impacting and saving people’s lives.”

The free event was organized by the Harlan County Fiscal Court and was open to the public, with lunch sponsored by Waste Connections and the Benham Schoolhouse Inn.

For more information on substance abuse and how you can help find a solution, call Mosley’s office at 606-573-2600.