Olive Hill is charting a new course to steer their children through the troubled waters of substance abuse. What can a team of dedicated volunteers from a small rural community in Appalachia learn from an isolated Island in the North Atlantic Ocean known as the land of fire and ice? An effective life-saving method that has been proven around the globe.
Led by the Galaxy Project, a well-established youth advocacy organization, and The Warriors’’ Path of Kentucky, this closely knit Kentucky Trail town has spent more than a year creating the Olive Hill Pathfinder Initiative Coalition (OHPIC). The Warriors’ Path of Kentucky offered the Olive Hill community the opportunity to be the pilot program for a project which seeks to implement the Icelandic Prevention Model (IPM) throughout Eastern Kentucky. Other communities were considered, but Olive Hill was chosen, not only because of the documented need, but because of the strength of their volunteers and nonprofit organizations.
With the Galaxy Project serving as fiscal agent and liaison with the school system; the Arts and Education Center, Olive Hill Trail Town, Chamber of Commerce, Olive Hill Council for Planning and Restoration, Churches and others created the Coalition.
The Coalition has joined with Planet Youth of Iceland and has become the first in Eastern Kentucky to adopt what is known as the most effective substance abuse prevention program in the world. The IPM is evidence based, data-driven and used in more than 400 communities worldwide. Thanks to funding from the City of Olive Hill,The Pallottine foundation and Operation Unite and with support from Pathways, Eastern Kentucky University, Northeast Kentucky Substance Use Response Coalition, Operation Unite and many more, they have become the first to implement this game changing program east of the “Winchester Wall”.
Although the first in our region, the Coalition has been closely mentored by the first such program in the state; Franklin County’s “Just Say Yes ” program and guided by the Planet Youth team from Iceland, whose Chief Executive Officer; Pall Rikhardsson will visit Olive Hill this weekend. Mr. Rikhardson will be speaking Monday, the 25th of September in Frankfort at a statewide prevention conference co-sponsored by Just Say Yes and OHPIC.
According to Chelsa Hamilton, Executive Director of the Galaxy Project, key components of the program include the promotion of strong family connections, supporting the school system, enhancing extracurricular activities and collecting data to determine risk factors and the scope of the problem.
The model shifts teen substance use prevention efforts away from a traditional focus on individual behavior change and toward addressing the societal and environmental factors that have contributed to the crisis, while creating a path toward life-long health and wellness. The Coalition will strive to connect Olive Hill’s children to after-school and out-of-school programs that emphasize outdoor recreation, art, music, sports, horseback riding and other interests. The goal is not only to teach teens to say no, but create opportunities for them to say yes to the right choices. According to Max Hammond of the Warriors’ Path, the Pathfinder Initiative will strive to engage participants in activities outside school to build their sense of belonging, strengthen their social connections, establish pride in themselves and help them discover their best path forward.