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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 to deliver substance abuse education to youth.

To address the target population from several media, "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, the 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 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.

"On the Move" and "Life with a Record" receive support from multiple community partners, including Appalachia HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas) and the Kentucky National Guard. The program has now expanded to reach students in Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia in addition to Kentucky.

This program received support from a 2012-2015 Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) Rural Health Care Services Outreach grant. Operation UNITE also received proceeds from the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit hosted every year in Atlanta.

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


Through December 2017, "On the Move" has been presented to 26,846 seventh- and tenth-grade students in 40 counties within four states: Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. "Life with a Record" has been presented to 9,666 students in 38 schools within 18 different counties in Kentucky.

Pre- and post-surveys were administered in schools across Kentucky counties to collect data on knowledge among grades 7 and 10 for "On the Move." The survey questions 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

Overall, 2,832 students have seen the presentation of “Life with a Record” in 20 different schools in 10 Kentucky counties. The survey questions 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

Both programs have received national recognition at the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit workshops as well as the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) Regional Conference in Baltimore in 2017.


  • 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 (2-3 people versus the 8 they actually needed).
  • School schedules, such as reserving gym or parking lot space, can also be a challenge.


UNITE will provide the curricula for the mobile prevention unit and "Life with a Record" free of charge to any community, school, or coalition 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
Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia

Date added
October 27, 2015

Date updated or reviewed
January 12, 2018

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.