WATERGAP - The Allen Baptist Church hosted the February meeting of the Floyd County UNITE Coalition, which is composed of area residents who wish to raise awareness of the devastating impact of drug addiction on area families.
The meeting saw a large turnout, which included one area parent who had concerns about the new drug-testing policy in Floyd County schools as it relates to teachers.
Lola Ratliff, Safe Schools coordinator for the board of education, was on hand to explain the county's drug-testing policy instituted in area schools this year. She explained that Operation UNITE has been a boon to area schools by funding two drug counselors who have been kept busy offering services in county schools.
Both counselors were on hand and explained that there are not enough hours in the week to see the students who seek them out for aid in coping with their own drug problems, though many have sought out their services because of drug-addicted parents.
Ratliff also offered hope in that Paintsville Independent Schools have offered the services of their drug counselor, who is only needed three days a week and will be coming to Prestonsburg schools shortly to help pick up on the workload.
The audience included one parent, Myshellia Mullins, who shared concerns about a teacher at John M. Stumbo, Stephanie Tackett, who is set for trial March 1 on two counts of drug trafficking.
Mullins expressed that there should be criteria for testing teachers and noted that she is pursuing a case against Tackett for allegedly assaulting her child in school on on August 25. Mullins noted that she only later learned that Tackett was charged with felony counts of drug trafficking and expressed concern that Tackett is still teaching at the school.
Coalition Director Mike Vance stepped in before the questioning got too heated and explained that Mullins had good points to make, but that they would be more appropriately addressed at the next school board meeting, where accountable policy makers could be questioned directly.
Vance then called on Commonwealth's Attorney Brent Turner to talk about what is happening in county courtrooms to stem the tide of drug trafficking. Turner noted that his figures for 2005 have not been collated but highlighted two recent cases involving methamphetamine manufacturing. He pointed out that the state has made manufacturing meth a Class B felony, which can now net up to 10 years in prison as a minimum sentence for the crime.
Turner also stated that he hopes his appointment to the High Impact Drug Trafficking Area task force will allow him to bring more resources into the Big Sandy region. Turner explained that HIDTA targets large-scale dealers and applauded Operation UNITE for taking down street level dealers. He said that the addition of HIDTA could only bolster the efforts to combat drug trafficking in the region.
Turner briefly addressed the charges against Tackett, noting that the he couldn't talk about a pending case in detail but that he always had time to explain where a case stands for concerned citizens. He said that Tackett is set for trial on March 1 and that, contrary to rumors, the case has only seen one postponement.
Turner observed that more funding for KASPAR would only help stop doctor-shopping in the area if the system were quick enough to immediately tell doctors and pharmacists what kind of drug history their patients have.
Turner took questions after his presentation and agreed with one reporter who asked if pharmacies were becoming the new banks, as far as being targets for robbery. Turner replied that it has been a concern of his for two years and to be expected now that drugs are getting somewhat harder to get with the addition of the KASPAR reporting and the attorney general's efforts to stem the flow of internet pharmacies shipping drugs into the state.
Turner closed by saying that his efforts only hit the tip of the iceberg and applauded the coalition and schools for raising awareness.
“We can only fight the tide in the courts, but drug treatment and counseling do far more good when they make early interventions and turn people away from drugs,” Turner said.