By Magen McCrarey
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Laurel County is taking a stand against the existing drug problem at a Town Hall meeting on Thursday, Feb. 7 at the London Community Center. The RISE Above Drugs Coalition is a collaborative effort between law enforcement, schools, churches, businesses, local government and local citizens.
“We began as an initiative to try to combat the drug problem here in Laurel County and as an effort to bring the stimulus of federal monies to Laurel County to assist in the process,” said Bill Mayes, Coalition chairman and community based supervisor for Sunrise Children’s Services of London.
Panelists during the town hall meeting will include Mayor Troy Rudder, County Judge Executive David Westerfield, Commonwealth Attorney Jackie Steele, Sheriff John Root, Laurel County Chamber Executive Director Deanna Herrmann, London Police Chief Stewart Walker, London Police Detective Sgt. Chris Edwards and UNITE Coalition Coordinator Carl Varney.
“There are many groups and individuals in Laurel County who have been greatly concerned with this issue over the years and RISE is a vehicle to coordinate those efforts,” said John Shindlebower, associate director of communications at Sunrise Children’s Services.
Shindlebower said Sunrise Children’s Services has been helping troubled youth in Laurel County for 15 years. The majority of those who enter the program have been deeply impacted by drugs.
Since Laurel County far surpassed every county in the state for methamphetamine production in 2011, meth has taken a backseat to an even larger problem — prescription drugs. All law enforcement agencies in the county are now focused on eradicating the illegal sale and misuse of controlled substances.
“Drugs are a multi-generational cycle. If we can get the generation now to stop the use (of drugs), we can stop it from passing to the next,” Mayes said.
In Kentucky, more than 12,000 children are living with relatives, according to the AARP Foundation. That statistic amounts to approximately 7 percent of Kentucky’s children. More than 6,800 children are currently in Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) foster care.
Reasons why these children become displaced from their homes and placed in foster care are proven to be caused by drug-related use by parents, imprisonment, illness or death.
“We have seen the impact that drugs and substance abuse plays on children and families in the community,” he said. “Our involvement in RISE allows us to take a proactive role in trying to eliminate root causes of abuse and neglect and other family crises.”
The RISE Above Drugs Coalition invites everyone in London and Laurel County to attend the event to express their thoughts and opinions, as well as bring some questions to ask the panelists.
Following the town hall meeting, the Coalition will meet monthly to further pursue their goals set forth through the community discussion February 7.
For more information about RISE, visit www.clockwerkdesigns.com/risecoalition, email Bill Mayes at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 606-862-9132.