U.S. Rep. Harold “Hal” Rogers took the stage at the opening plenary session of the National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit on Monday in Atlanta to receive the Summit’s inaugural Beacon of Hope Award. He was recognized for his efforts to fight the opioid epidemic in Kentucky’s fifth U.S. Congressional District, but spent much of his time at the lectern praising the works of others.
“You’ve made this issue a priority in the workplace, in our homes and in the community, and your work matters,” Rogers told attendees of the seventh annual Summit. “It takes people from every discipline to fight this battle we’re in. You’re the anchor of hope in your area and for the next generation, and hope is what draws us together every year.”
In 2003, Rogers, who is also the founding co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse, launched the not-for-profit Operation UNITE (Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment and Education) to combat substance abuse in 32 counties in southern and eastern Kentucky.
“Our battle cry was simple,” Rogers said. “If you’re thinking about using drugs, get smart. If you’re already addicted, get help. If you’re a drug dealer, get out. Fifteen years later, that battle cry is still relevant.”
Nancy Hale, Operation UNITE’s president and CEO, also spoke during the session, imploring attendees to take responsibility for addressing the crisis in their communities, identify their most pressing needs and develop strategies to respond, and keep a focus on youth, safeguarding the nation’s next generation through education.
At the conclusion of the presentation, it was announced that the Beacon of Hope Award would be named after Rogers moving forward.