PRESTONSBURG — Community members joined together in Prestonsburg, Sunday afternoon, in an effort to raise awareness about the problems facing the region due to drug addiction and the many needs that are still left unmet.
Communities Against Drug Addiction organized the event, which included free barbecue, singing and demonstrations by Dance Etc. and Adams Middle School archery students. But the focus of the event was to call attention to the extent of problems caused by addiction and to rally public efforts to combat those challenges.
“There’s not a single family, in this town, in this county, that has not been affected somehow by addiction,” CADA member Leslie Howell said. “Whether it’s your loved one or yourself, whether it’s vandalism to your property, whether your parents are afraid to go out, whether you’ve been robbed, whatever — we’re all in this together, people. We’re all in this together and we are all affected.
“We have to have our elected officials. We have to have our officers. And we better come together. We better come together. With God’s help, that’s the only way we’re going to solve this problem. It’s the only way.”
County Judge-Executive R.D. “Doc” Marshall said it was encouraging to see about 60 people turn out for the event, but he added that many more should have been there.
“I think each one here realizes that this parking lot should be full,” Marshall said. “It should be running over.”
Marshall said everyone has a role to play in combatting drug addiction.
“Addiction is a horrible, horrible way of life, a state of mind that is alter and these people need help,” Marshall said. “It is up to us as local officials, as individuals who care to reach out and do that.”
Donna Desarro-Raynal gave a sermon at the event and emphasized that many misconceptions about drug abuse must be overcome in order to effectively confront the problem.
“The notion that substance abuse is not happening in our churches and neighborhoods, on our streets, is just about the biggest lie we can tell …” Desarro-Raynal said. “We can open our eyes to what God might do with us, out of the difficulties, tragedies even, that drug addiction can produce. That’s the real truth, that positive and effective ways beyond drug addiction are possible.
“Pretending that drug addiction only affects certain people, those who aren’t like us, well, that’s hogwash. This disease does not discriminate. It is not about economics, education, upbringing, social class, status, church-going, sinning or anything else. It is a disease, like diabetes or high blood pressure, and we must all recognize that.”
Carla Smith, from Knott County, also spoke at the rally, touching on some of the tangential problems caused by rampant drug addiction, particularly in the area of crime.
“For the past decade or so, it has been no secret that the problem in that area has been intensifying greatly …” Smith said. “My family has been hurt a lot. My mother has been robbed several times, broken in on repeatedly. Her living room windows are nailed shut, because there was a man coming through her window one night. She got her attacked walking her little dog, taking her out to the bathroom at night.”
Smith said Kentucky State Police has been extremely helpful in catching lawbreakers, but she added that law enforcement alone does not solve all of the problems. She said there are many victims who currently do not have any outlet for their pain.
“I think it’s really sad that, in my community, there’s no help for families like mine,” Smith said. “There’s no support. There’s no free counseling services for families that have been traumatized over and over again. Especially if you have small children that you have to keep explaining to why this is going on and why it’s going to get better, that’s hard to do, after you’ve done it 15 times.”