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Advocates for Action Guest Post: Providing Hope and Opportunity

Karen Kelly has been selected as a 2013 ONDCP Advocate for Action for her work to curb the prescription drug epidemic through education, treatment, and law enforcement partnership. Read more about Karen Kelly's story and how she's making a difference to improve public health and safety in Kentucky.

The prescription drug abuse epidemic has ravaged southern and eastern Kentucky. We have been hit harder than most, but our pain is now being felt by others as the scourge has spread across the country.

Drug abuse affects virtually every family in the country, including my own. I have two nephews struggling with substance abuse and a brother who has been recovering from addiction for the past 20 years. Their successes and setbacks provide motivation for me to help others in similar situations. I persevere armed with faith that God will guide our efforts and strengthen our resolve.

My heart breaks every time I meet a child who has not eaten at home in days because his or her caregivers are more concerned about feeding their drug habit than feeding their children. I want to scream when these children share stories about seeing parents inserting needles in their arms or describe their deplorable living conditions. Far too many kids have become innocent victims of abuse or neglect because of their parents’ addiction.

Sometimes it is difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel; drug abuse is like a dark cloud obscuring the possibilities of a brighter future. Before we can turn things around, we must reach out to the next generation. We must show young people that no matter how dire their current circumstances may appear, there is a way out. The road may not be easy, but with the help of loving, caring adults and their peers, there is hope and opportunity for a better future.

These stories are repeated in every community across our great Nation. Many dedicated individuals and organizations are leading crusades against prescription drug abuse. But success comes slowly. That is why UNITE organized the first National Rx Drug Abuse Summit in 2012 (and will host a second Summit in 2013). Stakeholders discussed prescription drug problems in their communities and came together with a focus on ways to make an impact through holistic collaboration.

UNITE’s efforts seek to impart hope: Hope for addicts seeking help. Hope for families confused and frustrated by a loved one’s addiction. Hope for those in recovery that they can once again become productive members of society. And, most important, hope that our children realize there can be a better tomorrow.

Operation UNITE is a non-profit organization providing a holistic approach to substance abuse through law enforcement, treatment, and education initiatives.