SOAR, UPIKE, Operation UNITE host Turn the Tide Substance Use Disorder Provider Education Event

PIKEVILLE, Ky. – Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR) Healthy Communities partnered with the University of Pikeville (UPIKE) Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine (KYCOM) and Operation UNITE to host Turn The Tide, a substance use disorder provider education event at the Health Professions Education building at UPIKE on Tuesday, October 23. 

More than 300 current and future health professionals and stakeholders who shared the vision of reducing the scope and impact of substance use disorder and related consequences through education, awareness, prevention, and access to services attended the event both onsite and virtually.  The event was livestreamed and participants from 27 locations in six states viewed in groups and hundreds of people were able to watch on their own, giving open access to the depth of experience and knowledge that the speakers presented. 

“For Appalachia to continue rising, we must have a healthy community,” said Burton J. Webb, Ph.D., UPIKE president. “It is vital that our region pulls together to combat substance use disorder through creative and effective means. The University of Pikeville is committed to working with the community by being part of the solution to the substance use epidemic.”

In addition to the various health professionals that were in attendance, Operation UNITE organized six UNITE Clubs to attend from Floyd and Pike counties. UNITE Clubs – designed for students in grades 4-12 – help youth develop healthy attitudes and behaviors by learning and practicing life skills, enhancing academic performance, connecting peers, adults, communities and learning through service. Youth are involved in developing and conducting activities designed to help make their schools and communities healthy and drug-free as well as mentoring younger students.

UNITE Clubs that attended were:

  • Elkhorn City Elementary (grades 6-8)

  • Feds Creek Elementary (grades 6-8)

  • James D. Adams Middle School- a 2018 UNITE Club of the Year Winner

  • Johns Creek Elementary (grades 6-8)

  • Milliard Middle School

  • Mullins Elementary School (grades 6-8)

“Operation UNITE believes it is important to empower youth to avoid all addictive substances – alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and other drugs,” said Nancy Hale, UNITE President and CEO and SOAR Healthy Community Chairperson. “We want them to become leaders within their school and community by becoming a Voice of Hope. Through school-based, anti-drug UNITE Clubs for youth in grades 4-12, we are helping young people to develop a foundation of healthy attitudes, which will ‘Turn the Tide’ on substance use disorders for decades to come.”

The issue of substance use is complicated and multifactorial. Successful solutions must be grounded in the uniqueness of the communities that make up the Appalachian Region. Speakers at the substance use disorder event provided evidence-based guidelines, discussed how to integrate prevention and management into practice in a rural setting, and provided resources and tools to help current and future providers in Appalachia turn the tide on the substance use epidemic.

“We are determined to be on the cutting edge of fighting this epidemic by helping ensure health professionals have access to the knowledge they need to be our frontline response in every community in Eastern Kentucky,” said Jared Arnett, Executive Director of SOAR. “This epidemic has touched every single person in our region in some way, shape, or form. A groundswell of meaningful solutions and best practices has evolved from the work of countless individuals and organizations that are passionate about treating those battling substance use disorder. Events like this, that offer live stream viewing, are vital to sharing our knowledge and collaborating no matter where we live or work.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was the keynote speaker for the event.  He provided an update on legislation to combat the epidemic.  Other speakers were:

  • Jared Arnett, Executive Director of SOAR

  • Tom Vicini, Deputy Director, Operation UNITE

  • Dr. Jeffrey D. Howard Jr., Commissioner, Kentucky Department for Public Health

  • Dr. Pat Purcell, Kentucky Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics

  • Ronne Nunley, Pathways

  • Dr. Antoinette Justice, University of Pikeville

  • Dr. Allen Brenzel, Kentucky Department for Behavioral Health

  • Dr. Fadi Al Akhrass, Pikeville Medical Center

  • Jody Jaggers, Kentucky Pharmacy Association

  • Superintendent Danny Adkins, Floyd County Schools

  • Dr. Burton Webb, President of the University of Pikeville

  • Rebecca Robinette and Chase Gilbert, 2018 “I am UNITE” Scholarship Winners

The afternoon session featured two panel discussions focusing on Access to Treatment and Innovative Solutions.

Panel | Access to Treatment

  • Kayla Parsons, Addiction Recovery Care (Moderator)

  • Dr. Van Breeding, Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation

  • Courtney Maynard, Operation UNITE’s KY-HELP Statewide Call Center

Panel | Innovative Solutions

  • Genesia Kilgore-Bowling, University of Pikeville (Moderator)

  • Captain Jennifer Sandlin, Kentucky State Police

  • Van Ingram, Executive Director, Kentucky Office for Drug Control Policy

  • Charlotte Wethington, Casey’s Law


Kentucky’s Mobile Pharmacy Van, operated by the Kentucky Department of Health and the Kentucky Pharmacists Association, was on site for participants to tour and learn more about preventing overdose deaths.

Organizations and research from the region provided information and resources to participants. These included:

  • Operation UNITE

  • KY-HELP Statewide Call Center

  • Hope in the Mountains

  • Patterns of Opioid Use During Initial Buprenorphine/Naloxone Treatment in Relation to Changes in Opioid Management Laws in Kentucky, Health McGuire, KYCOM

  • Pike County Health Department

  • Addiction Recovery Care Centers

  • Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation

  • Mountain Comprehensive Care Center

  • Blue Grass Care Navigators

  • Bit Source

  • Passport Health Plan

The Turn the Tide event can be viewed in its entirety at:

Free continuing education credit hours were available for health care professionals in numerous categories.

For more information about SOAR Healthy Community goals and objectives, visit or contact Jenna Meyer at (606) 766-1160 or email