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Feds extend Appalachia’s boundaries into flatlands

Oct. 06, 2012 @ 07:02 AM

ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. (AP) — Don’t look for towering mountains here because there is none. This is a place of rolling countryside, cattle farms and cropland.

That’s why some eyebrows arched when the Obama administration penciled Hardin County into Appalachia, allowing the Elizabethtown-area to tap into funding for a mountain-based anti-drug initiative. Nevermind that Elizabethtown is some 200 miles west of bona fide Appalachian towns like Harlan and Hazard.

The availability of federal money set aside specifically for combating Appalachia’s woes has some communities in the flatlands looking for ways to cash in. The result has been far-flung cities claiming ties to the mountain region.

In central Appalachia, political leaders complain that federal funds are being siphoned out of a region that truly needs them. In August, the Office of National Drug Control Policy added Elizabethtown to the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a jurisdiction set up to fight the drug trade in the mountains.

Louisville and Bowling Green also have been added in recent years.

“Bringing on more counties only makes our situation less hopeful,” said Harlan County Judge-Executive Joe Grieshop, an Appalachian leader who is dealing with an epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse that has more people dying from overdoses than car wrecks.