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County won't financially support anti-drug coalition

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By Calen McKinney

County government won't financially support the community's organization geared toward getting drugs off the street.

Campbellsville/Taylor County Anti-Drug Coalition members asked magistrates last Tuesday for $12,000 to help its efforts. And while magistrates say they support the coalition, they won't do it with the taxpayers' money.

Coalition members learned earlier this year that they didn't receive a drug-free communities support program grant that would have given them $125,000 to operate.

As a result, one of the coalition's two paid staff members is out of a job and the other could soon work solely for the Taylor County School System.

Karen Hayes and Rhonda Parker are co-chairs of the coalition. Parker was working part time for the coalition, but hasn't worked since September. Hayes is still working in her coalition position, but she said she doesn't know for how long.

The coalition formed in 1993 after drug and alcohol abuse became prevalent in the community and officials believed something needed to be done about it. Since it began, Hayes said earlier this year, the coalition's expenses have all been paid for with grant money and some fundraising.

Hayes and Parker, along with other coalition members, spoke to magistrates last Tuesday about their request.

But before the discussion began, Taylor County Judge/Executive Eddie Rogers said magistrates have received several requests for funding this month, citing the reason as because they have lost state and federal funding. He said magistrates have those requests and asked for a response to them.

Magistrate Matt Pendleton said he doesn't believe county tax dollars should be used to support organizations because they have lost their funding. He said county government funds its road department, emergency medical services, the jail and its animal shelter. Those expenses, he said, are state mandated.

"Until we're mandated to fund everything else, I say we don't."

Rogers asked if any of those requesting money from the county would like to speak to magistrates. Paul Lacy, a coalition member, said it provides education to young people in the community after the potential effects of drug and alcohol abuse. He said helping fund the coalition will save the county money by not having to pay for people to be incarcerated, go to the hospital or receive other benefits.

Lacy said the coalition has proven to be effective and helping all Taylor County residents.

"We need to keep these people," he said.

Hayes quoted several statistics that she said show the coalition has saved money and is effective.

"Substance abuse programs work," she said. "It's a fact."

Those who have received substance abuse education, Hayes said, have been proven to have an overall higher quality of life.

She said the coalition has brought $2.8 million in grant funding to the community since 1993. And, Hayes said, the coalition's surveys about drug use show that it has decreased in local youth.

Hayes said a recent survey shows that marijuana use in teens is down 26 percent, alcohol use is down 39 percent, prescription drug abuse is down 69 percent and 34 percent fewer youth reported that they have used drugs in the past 30 days.

But she said the coalition doesn't just help youth. It has provided money for sobriety checkpoints in the community, purchased materials for narcotics and alcoholics anonymous classes, paid for random drug testing at local high schools, helped refer people to treatment and installed a permanent prescription drug disposal station at Campbellsville Police Department.

"The benefits far outweigh the costs," Hayes said.

Parker said the $12,000 would be a one-time payment to help the coalition continue operating while its members are applying for other grants. She said the coalition has helped fund many efforts in the community, from proms to project graduation to educating mothers about prenatal drug use to seniors about abusing their prescription medication.

"Now it's us that's asking," she said. "This is for the entire community."

And a survey done last year about the community revealed that drug and alcohol abuse are one of the Top 3 concerns residents have.

"And these are the people in your districts," Parker said.

Parker said the $12,000 the coalition is requesting is less than the $15,000 a year it costs to incarcerate one person.

Magistrate John Gaines asked if the coalition will ask other entities for money. Hayes said the coalition will speak to Campbellsville City Council members and ask them to also contribute $12,000. TRH already financially supports the agency, she said, by providing a monthly meeting place and lunch.

Parker and Hayes said it will take $24,000 to keep the coalition running through next September.

Magistrate Richard Phillips said he supports the coalition. The problem, he said, is many organizations are asking the county for money.

Looking through several letters magistrates were given, Phillips said 19 children wouldn't have Christmas if the magistrates didn't contribute to one request, an abused women's shelter was asking for money, Campbellsville High School asked for money, the county's senior center asked for help and Green River Ministries also asked for financial help.

"We're just not able to do that," he said. "We have to stand on, I can't pass out tax dollars."

If magistrates grant one request, Phillips said, they would have tripled the amount of this month's letters in January.

"If there's any way I can personally help, I will," he said.

Hayes asked if all of the groups asking for money can actually show a return on the county's investment as the coalition can.

Phillips said all will say that their programs are wonderful.

"I'm sure it's a great program, but it's a program," he said. "If we funded all of them, we'd be broke in a month."

Pendleton agreed and said he won't vote to fund a program with government money.

"I can be looked at as a bad guy," he said. "But that's the principle I stand on."

Gaines said he realizes that paying for substance abuse education is cheaper than treatment. He then made a motion to give the coalition $12,000, though he said he believes it likely won't get the required second to bring the issue to a vote.

Rogers asked for a second three times before Gaines' motion died for lack of a second.

Last Thursday, Hayes said the coalition has enough money to continue operating through March or April. After that, she said, she knows the coalition will go on, but not in what form. Hayes said she will remain co-chair if whatever position she ends up working allows time for it.

If the coalition doesn't receive any additional funding, Hayes said, its efforts might continue, but its programs will dwindle.

"We're still gonna keep doing what we're doing," she said.