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On the Move: Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment & Education (Operation UNITE)

  • Need: Illicit drug and alcohol use continued to increase in the Central Appalachian region of Kentucky where many schools had no type of prevention curriculum.
  • Intervention: Using engaging simulations and presentations, the program delivered substance abuse education to middle school and high school students.
  • Results: Post-test surveys showed that thousands of students were reached through the On the Move project and gained positive knowledge on the dangers of substance abuse.

Operation UNITE logo In October 2013, Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment & Education (Operation UNITE), along with 8 consortium partners, began the On the Move project in the Central Appalachian Region of Kentucky. The program was designed to mimic risk factors that involve real life situations where kids must make choices about substance use and also to deliver substance abuse education to youth.

To address the target population from several mediums, On the Move interacted with the community through television presence, radio broadcasts, press releases, posters, social media, and group education events. These channels were used to modify community perception and attitudes around tobacco, alcohol and drug use.

In addition, On the Move project contained two parts. The first was the mobile prevention classroom which traveled to schools across 32 rural Kentucky counties. This portion included an educational PowerPoint presentation as well as the use of 3 simulations to have students “live” the consequences brought about from alcohol and drug use.

The second was an educational toolkit called “Life with a Record.” This portion aimed to increase middle and high school student knowledge of the risks of having a felony conviction. Real community members in the UNITE service area were interviewed to talk about the freedoms and citizen’s rights they lost with a felony conviction.

This program received support from a 2012-2015 Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Rural Health Care Services Outreach grant.

Services offered
  • A battery-powered vehicle that simulates the effects of distraction and impairment from alcohol and other drugs on a motorist’s driving skills.
  • A simple shape and color matching game that helps demonstrate the impact of distractions on our reaction time and judgment and extends the lesson to the impact of distracted driving.
  • A computer program that generates a personalized multimedia presentation in news story format that puts the student in the middle of a vehicular tragedy.
  • A tricycle course that demonstrates various degrees of impairment with an emphasis on visual impairment.
  • “Life with a Record” film containing interviews with community members who discuss struggles they have faced as a result of having a felony conviction.

Pre and post surveys were administered in schools across counties to collect data on knowledge among grades 7 and 10 for the mobile prevention presentation and grades 6 through 12 for Life with a Record. Short-term knowledge changes were seen among some groups of the students reached. Not all participating students were required to take part in the surveys.

10,392 students have participated in the mobile prevention classroom presentation and fatal vision activities in 62 schools located in 17 Kentucky counties. The questions administered aimed to test student knowledge of the dangers of drug and alcohol use.

  • Middle school respondents averaged 69% correct pre-test and 69% post-test
  • High school respondents averaged 66% correct pre-test and 68% post-test
  • Accumulated respondents averaged 68% correct pre-test and 69% post-test

2,832 students have seen the presentation of “Life with a Record” in 20 different schools in 10 Kentucky counties. The questions administered aimed to test student knowledge of the risks associated with having a felony conviction.

  • Middle school respondents averaged 63% correct pre-test and 75% post-test
  • High school respondents averaged 66% correct pre-test and 83% post-test
  • Accumulated respondents averaged 64% correct pre-test and 78% post-test
  • Harsh weather can make it hard or impossible to do simulations outside
  • Initially, the program underestimated the people-power necessary to run the mobile prevention unit (2 to 3 people versus the 8 they actually needed)
  • School schedules, such as reserving gym or parking lot space, can also be challenging to mold the program around.

UNITE will provide the curricula for the mobile prevention unit and Life with a Record free of charge to any community, school or coalition that would be interested in presenting the information to their youth. They can contact UNITE Education Director Debbie Trusty.

A flyer example that Operation UNITE used to promote On the Move is available for adaptation.

Some expenses to consider include:

  • Remodeling and maintenance of mobile prevention unit
  • Travel expenses for staff and volunteers
  • Cost of simulations. One program has a software cost of $400.
Contact Information
Debbie L. Trusty, Education Director
Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment & Education (Operation UNITE)
Children and youth
Substance abuse
Wellness, health promotion, and disease prevention
States served
Date added
October 27, 2015

Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.