White House Drug Policy Director Encourages Appalachian Communities to Combat Substance Abuse
WASHINGTON, June 27, 2011—At a conference today hosted by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), leaders of 30 Appalachian community substance abuse coalitions were encouraged by the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske, to continue their work to reduce drug use. Kerlikowske was the featured speaker at the conference, which was co-hosted by East Tennessee State University and held at the Millennium Centre.
The participating community coalitions were the winners of ARC's 2011 Competition for Community-Based Substance Abuse Initiatives, a program that provides grants, training, and technical assistance to community-based substance abuse coalitions in the most economically distressed areas of Appalachia.
Kerlikowske told the participants that, as part of the Obama administration's commitment to improve economic prosperity and public health in rural America, his office is working closely with communities in Appalachia to reduce drug use and its consequences. "Our nation's prescription drug epidemic has hit Appalachia particularly hard," he said. "All of us have a role to play in addressing this threat, and I look forward to working closely with the Appalachian Regional Commission to make our communities healthier and safer."
ARC Federal Co-Chair Earl F. Gohl warned that substance abuse is a serious threat to the economic health of Appalachian communities and noted that successful strategies are needed to reduce its impact on economic vitality. "Forming coalitions such as the ones represented at this conference," he said, "are proven means to developing the local capacity to move forward against this threat in new and innovative ways."
An ARC-funded study conducted by the National Opinion Research Center in 2008 showed that the Appalachian Region suffers from disproportionately high rates of substance use and abuse, including increasing abuse of prescription painkillers.
To address this issue, ARC launched the Competition for Community-Based Substance Abuse Initiatives, targeted at local substance abuse coalitions. Sixty community coalitions from across the Region submitted applications. A panel of experts chose 30 winning groups for participation in the program, awarding them a total of $150,000 in grants.
Conference participants will design project work plans to implement in their communities in the coming weeks. They have nine months to complete project activities.