By: Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
The road to a drug free future isn’t going to be an easy one. No matter how much we’d like to get there, we aren’t going to do it overnight. Our communities have been ravaged by the opioid epidemic for too long now – creating intergenerational trauma that perpetuates the cycles of despair and addiction – and there is no magical solution.
But if we’re patient, and put in the work, there might be a way forward where the next generation never picks up drugs or alcohol. Or, at least, delays their experimentation until they’re more emotionally mature and less likely to fall into addiction.
The way to do this? By giving kids other things to say “yes” to, instead of simply warning them to “just say no.”
That’s what the Galaxy Project’s Chelsa Hamilton and Warrior’s Path Project’s Max Hammond hope to do with the Pathfinder Initiative – a new partnership between the two organizations that hopes to employ an Icelandic model that’s been proven to reduce risk factors in young people’s peer groups, home environment, schools, by giving kids things to do, and parents a place to meet and talk.
The program got on their radar, Hamilton said, after members of the Olive Hill Council for Planning and Restoration spoke to her about how the project was “perfect for what Galaxy was already doing.”
Galaxy gives students things to do outside of school with their programs and activities. They also sponsor scholarships for students who don’t have the means to participate in extracurricular activities, in and outside of school, making sure none have to be left out simply because their family doesn’t have the means.
That dovetails perfectly, Hamilton said, with what the Icelandic program and the associated Planet Youth model are accomplishing with their “Just say yes,” system of giving kids something to do.
“This gets the kids involved in activities, and really ties in with getting kids active and involved in our community, to make our community a better place,” Hamilton said.
Hammond said it’s a nice fit for the Warrior’s Path, because, as he said, “the Warrior’s Path has always been about more than tourism.”
“It’s been about helping preserve our past, but also about making important changes,” Hammond said. “Changes to our future here in Appalachia, and up and down the path, and giving opportunity to the communities, to everyone to enjoy the path, and to keeping people on the right path through socioeconomic initiatives.”
“This is certainly one,” Hammond continued. “The Warrior’s Path sees this as an opportunity to take advantage of the leadership that has already been developed in a small town; leadership that can be a shining light to the rest of Appalachia.”
Hammond explained that the Warrior’s Path wanted to pick a community to begin this program, based on the Icelandic model, that they are calling the Pathfinder Initiative, “in a place where we knew it would succeed… where we knew we already had the leadership.” Olive Hill was that place, and Hamilton was the one already providing that leadership, he said.
Recovery is important, Hammond said, and Kentucky is leading the way there. But instead of pulling the proverbial child out of the well of addiction after they fall in, Hammond said, “let’s keep the child from falling in the well, as they would say in Iceland.”
In Appalachia that well, of course, is deep. Especially in Carter County. Our drug overdose mortality rate, 66.1 per 100K, is more than double the national average of 28.7. It’s almost a third more than the Appalachian region as a whole, at 43.6, and Kentucky as a state, at 48.5 per 100K.
It isn’t something that’s going to be accomplished quickly.
But, Hammond noted, “we’ve got to start somewhere.”
“The best time to plant an apple tree was 10 years ago,” he said. “The second best time is now. So we’re starting it now. We’re making a difference. And, you know, some of us won’t see this through to sit in the shade, or enjoy the fruit. But that’s how a society advances.”
For more information on the Pathfinder Initiative, or to become involved, you can contact Hamilton through the Galaxy Project Facebook page, or Hammond through the FIVCO Area Development District.
Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org