CUMBERLAND GAP, Tenn. (WVLT) - A crusade to end drug abuse in east Tennessee already has thousands behind it.
Now, it could soon include new help from the federal government.
Six months ago, thousands wearing bright green shirts marched from Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia to Cumberland Gap. They were marching for everyone who drug abuse has touched. This has developed into "Stand in the Gap."
"It's like dropping a stone in a river and the ripples are spreading out," said Edwin Robertson, "Stand in the Gap" coordinator.
Edwin Robertson is a veterinarian from Cumberland Gap. He's seen pills and alcohol tear apart the lives of many around him.
"The depth of this drug infestation is so great, it's far beyond any local ability or even TBI to make a dent in it," said Robertson.
"You try to send people to drug screens and you can't hire half of them because they flunk a drug test," said Bill McGaffee, a Cumberland Gap City Council member.
Since the "Stand in the Gap" march, Robertson and McGaffee are continuing to meet with concerned people.
At the last meeting, the groundwork was laid for a new federal task force for the area. It's modeled after one already established in eastern Kentucky, Operation UNITE.
"They are gonna be willing to help us get the first three-state federal drug task force formed that would have judicial authority over all three of these states," said Robertson.
That means law enforcement could cross state lines without needing to extradite. There would also be more cash available for undercover drug operations.
To help the addicts, rehabilitation and drug court programs could be put in place.
"They gotta have the want-to, and get out of the environment that they're in," said McGaffee.
There's also a new drug tip-line you can call anonymously to report drug abuse in your neighborhood.
That number is 1-866-424-4382. Authorities say if you do call, they encourage you to give specific information regarding activities.
Robertson says he's hoping to soon organize weekly prayer meetings on Thursday nights that will take place in front of Cumberland Gap City Hall.