A company that owns coal lands in Eastern Kentucky has pledged to donate $500,000 over five years for substance-abuse treatment.
The pledge from Kentucky River Properties LLC to Operation UNITE is the largest single private donation to the agency since it was formed in 2003, UNITE spokesman Dale Morton said Tuesday.
UNITE provides vouchers to help pay for treatment of addicts in eastern and southern parts of Kentucky.
High rates of prescription-pill abuse in the area have been described as an epidemic, causing overdose deaths and contributing to crime and other problems.
"Nearly every family has experienced the pain inflicted through abuse of prescription or illegal drugs," U.S. Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers, R-Somerset, said in a statement.
UNITE will use the money from Kentucky River Properties for treatment vouchers for low-income people in Perry, Knott, Leslie and Letcher counties and to support drug courts, according to a release.
People in the area who need residential substance-abuse treatment usually have to wait about a month to get into a program, but UNITE can eliminate that wait in those four counties with the donation, UNITE Director Karen Engle said.
UNITE has issued treatment vouchers to more than 1,600 people since mid-2005, Morton said.
Rogers formed UNITE in 2003 to investigate drug trafficking, coordinate treatment and expand drug education.
Kentucky River Properties, which has offices in Hazard, Lexington and Henderson, owns about 250,000 acres in Eastern Kentucky that it leases to coal companies to mine.
"Substance abuse threatens to destroy the infrastructure so vital to our future. We are in a position to do something about this threat by helping Operation UNITE provide much-needed treatment," Fred Parker, president of the company, said in a statement.