For 20 years, Art Linkletter's chief interest has been his crusade against drug abuse.

And he will continue his crusade July 20 in the Grand Ballroom of the Salt Lake Hilton. His address, sponsored by Charter Summit Hospital, will begin at 8 p.m. and is free to the public.Linkletter will address family issues stemming from drug abuse among the country's young people. His presentation will kick off Charter Summit's family conference at Snowbird Resort July 21.

Linkletter said Monday in a telephone interview that Salt Lake City is one of his favorite places to visit. He comes often to ski in Park City. "In fact," said Linkletter, the grandfather of seven and great-grandfather of two, "our family, all 19 of us, will be in Park City the week before Christmas to enjoy the skiing as well as the holidays."

Linkletter said he was in Salt Lake a couple of years ago with the opening of the Charter Summit Hospital. "I will cover as many groundbreaking ceremonies, hospital openings and meetings that deal with the strengthening of the family unit as I can," he said.

Linkletter said that in today's society, the basic family unit is under attack by forces beyond the control of family members, such as finances and the dispersement of people through jobs and other demands. "These forces keep the family from the structural support of a strong unit," he said.

When a child has communication problems with either of his parents, he can no longer walk down the road to cry at Grandpa's house or Uncle Joe's house because of the loss of the wider circle in the family unit, Linkletter said.

"Schools and churches are being called on to do more than just teach the child. They need to be concerned with the child's worries and concerns. They need to be concerned about the child's character," said Linkletter.

Linkletter said today's families have less and less conversation because of TVs, radios, cassette players and the necessity of both parents working. "Kids today have cars at 16 and they're gone," Linkletter said. "They can be 300 miles away from home in just a matter of hours and with that, they're away from any parental guidance."

Linkletter feels the only way to change current lifestyles is to become aware of what is happening to the basic family unit, confront it and challenge it.

"The family unit can be very powerful, if it is exercised," said Linkletter. "Families have always had to struggle against outside forces. They have always had to deal with the problems of their times, and they have always adapted and families have always survived."

Linkletter said whenever he makes an appearance he tries to keep things upbeat. "Even though we live in perilous times, it's our only time and our best time," he said.

In addition to Linkletter's vast broadcasting experience, 45 years of radio and TV, he brings with him indefatigable work in helping fight the nation's battle against drug abuse. Linkletter has served on the President's National Advisory Council for Drug Abuse Prevention and was president of the National Coordinating Council on Drug Abuse Education and Information Inc.

Reagan recently appointed him commissioner general for Brisbane Expo '88, which carries ambassadorial rank. Linkletter's personal interest in drug abuse prevention came from hard experience. In 1969, his youngest child fell to her death from the sixth floor balcony of her Hollywood apartment. Although no measurable amount of any drug was found in her system after her death, evidence suggested that his 19-year-old daughter had experimented with LSD and other drugs in the past, and the tragedy that took her life was related to drugs.