CLAY, LAUREL COUNTIES, Ky. (WYMT) - U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and White House Drug Czar Jim Carroll were in Eastern Kentucky Monday afternoon.
Local officials join (L-R) VOA Mid-States President & CEO Jennifer Hancock, KY Senate President Robert Stivers, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, KY Governor-elect Andy Beshear, KY Attorney General-elect Daniel Cameron, and ONDCP Director Jim Carroll.
They visited a center in Manchester, called the Freedom House, which aims to help people fighting addiction and the impacts of the opioid crisis in Kentucky.
”But today we are here celebrating. 'Be not afraid. I am here.' That is what VOA and Freedom House and those that are so passionate and Senator McConnell are all about," said Carroll. "And under Leader McConnell's direction, we have funded two dozen prevention programs focusing on kids 18 and under. That's the part I'm here to enlighten, here to educate."
People with Volunteers of America hope this will help to reduce Eastern Kentucky's opioid epidemic. Volunteers of America Mid States CEO Jennifer Hancock joined McConnell and Carroll on Monday.
"We can change the world. Together we can cast stones that are just starting as ripples that I believe will become a wave of change for Clay County and Southeastern Kentucky," Hancock said.
Governor-elect Andy Beshear and Attorney General-elect Daniel Cameron were also at the ribbon-cutting.
“As Kentucky continues to endure the unfortunate consequences of opioid and substance abuse, we are reinvesting in comprehensive treatment strategies,” said Senator McConnell. “I’m grateful to Director Carroll for recognizing, once again, the innovative leadership right here in our Commonwealth, and I’m glad to have his partnership as we address this national crisis. As we continue to bolster our prevention, treatment, and enforcement efforts, we can make important strides to stopping the tragedy of addiction from inflicting pain on more Kentucky communities.”
Officials said McConnell made it a priority to work with the national drug control policy to see firsthand the effects of the crisis and to hear from those directly working with those on the front lines. Elected officials on both sides of the political aisle said this is one thing they can all agree on.
"I think we both believe we have to work across party lines, addressing this drug epidemic," said Beshear. "Too big of a challenge to focus on our differences."
Beshear said Republican Senate President Robert Stivers wanted him there for the opening of the Volunteers of America Recovery Community Center.
"Because we shall go forward. We shall go forward strong. Our best days are yet to come," Sen. Stivers said.
The Freedom House involves everything from a new Mountain Market to provide jobs and transitional housing for those wanting a life away from drug abuse.
"So what I've done is to dig in. I think the results are pretty good. $240 million of federal funding for Kentucky's fight against opioids and substance abuse," Sen. McConnell said.
Construction of the Freedom House was announced in April. At the time, it was also announced the facility would receive a $100,000 grant to help expecting mothers who were suffering from substance abuse. Officials said the region did not have any facilities or resources of this magnitude before now.
Volunteers of America also has several programs that help veterans and currently has more than 40 programs in Kentucky.
McConnell and others then went to the Kentucky Air National Guard Hanger in London. A roundtable discussion was held there with local law enforcement about how to stop the inflow of drugs into the region.
"We've had a meeting here with all the first responders and law enforcement and people that are on the front line," Sen. McConnell added.
"We've added more counties to the HIDTA. or High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas, to make sure there is more money, millions of dollars coming to unite federal, state and local law enforcement here in Kentucky," said Carroll.