OLIVE HILL, Ky. (AP) — Officials and residents in a small eastern Kentucky town are praying for "a new beginning" in an effort to heal the area of the scourge of drugs.
More than 200 Olive Hill residents gathered recently for a prayer meeting at the National Guard Armory. The crowd included younger and older residents who came together to improve their community.
The meeting this month, called A New Beginning, came after the town's former mayor was arrested in November on a charge of trafficking drugs near an elementary school.
Councilwoman Angela Johnson, who advertised the meeting on her Facebook page, told The Independent (http://bit.ly/YbUqvU) that newly appointed Mayor Kenny Fankell had the idea for the meeting.
"One thing was on his heart," Johnson said. "He had the title and everything."
Limestone Apostolic Church member Jim Short says he is hoping for a divine change.
"We're counting on these kids to make a difference in this town," he said, noting several youth like 14-year-old Hailey Collins came to the event.
Collins, who is part of the youth ministry at Limestone Apostolic Church, said she wanted to be part of the solution.
"I wanted to learn some stuff," she said. "I'd like to see more things for teenagers to do instead of hanging out downtown."
West Carter High school student Kieara Judd, 17, said it was good to see so many people come out for the meeting.
"It shows people are trying to make the community better," she said. "The drugs need to be gone —I believe Olive Hill needs a change, every way possible."
Resident Brenda Cline, who has lived in Olive Hill for almost all her 61 years, said she came out "to help Olive Hill to pray and see if we can turn it around."
"What we need is good prayer," Cline said. "And, I love my town. I think drugs (are) around everywhere."
Olive Hill Police Chief Bobby Hall says prescription pill arrests in the city have declined, but other drug arrests have increased.
"(Pills are) still very prevalent," Hall said. "... We've seen an increase in the production of meth, and we've seen a lot more heroin now than what we've ever seen before ... That's a result of prescription pills getting harder to get coupled with being so expensive."
Hall said it can be difficult for police to keep up with the problems.
"If you cure one problem, the people that want to do drugs and live that lifestyle will find something else," he said. "It's just hard to keep it reined in — the number of policemen keeps shrinking, and the crime just keeps increasing. (We're) trying to do more with less."
Information from: The Independent, http://www.dailyindependent.com