Newspaper’s efforts to battle drug crisis are invaluable
BY KATHY MILES
Boyle County Agency for Substance Abuse Policy, Inc.
Strong newspapers contribute to strong communities. We have certainly found that to be the case in Boyle County. And, strong newspapers must have strong leadership – they don’t just happen. Ben Kleppinger has provided that kind of leadership for over 4 years. His commitment to addressing tough issues has helped all of us look long and hard at our problems, and has made an incredible difference in the work we have been doing in Boyle County on the drug crisis.
Kleppinger’s leadership of the Advocate-Messenger has coincided with the local rise of painkiller and heroin use, the continued surge of methamphetamine use, and the most drug overdoses we have ever seen. We have also experienced one of the most overcrowded jails in Kentucky, first responders pushed to the limit, and an alarming rise of children in out of home care because of their parents’ substance misuse and addiction. Ben, Bobbie Curd, and Robin Hart have covered all of these issues with a tenacious commitment to help the many members of Boyle County Agency for Substance Abuse Policy (ASAP) increase awareness of the problems, and work on solutions together.
When ASAP has sponsored events, such as overdose response trainings or substance use and the workplace educational events, one of them has been there to cover them. And, they didn’t just cover them in a superficial way. They wrote detailed, educational articles, aimed at helping our entire community better understand what we now know to be true about the treatment and prevention of addiction. Those articles essentially extended ASAP’s ability to educate and make a difference in remarkable ways. We know it has been remarkable, as we are aware that so many communities across our state and country do not have this kind of support in a local newspaper.
Perhaps one of the most valuable contributions the newspaper has made to our work is to help reduce the stigma of substance use disorders. It’s not easy to change what people have learned and passed down for generations about addiction. National experts continue to say that until we eliminate the stigma of addiction, we won’t have everyone seeking help who needs it, we won’t have significant criminal justice reform, and we won’t make needed changes in allocating funding for treatment and prevention. In article after article and multiple editorials, the Advocate-Messenger has helped to share the news that solutions to these complicated problems do exist, that recovery does happen, and that hope for a better future is alive and well in Boyle County. So often in these past 4 years, people have made statements like, “Now I understand these problems better”, and “What would we have done about this without our newspaper?”
Our thanks, then, to Ben Kleppinger, and his staff for bringing strong leadership to the Advocate-Messenger during a challenging time. We have been in this work together, and will miss his contributions tremendously. We trust that the Advocate-Messenger’s commitment to tackle difficult problems like the drug crisis will continue. Now that we have a new challenge in the COVID-19 crisis, we need this newspaper more than ever. And, as readers and subscribers, let’s don’t take this privilege to have a local voice in the free press for granted. As our Governor says every day, “We’re all in this together”. Thankfully, in our community, that “together” includes our local newspaper.