• 57°

Community must unite around rehab efforts to solve overcrowded jail

By KATHY MILES

Boyle ASAP

Boyle County has a jail problem. In the past year, almost everyone has heard — or read in this newspaper — that our detention center is bursting at the seams.

The jail’s census one day last week was reported at 365 inmates — a number never anticipated a few years ago. Almost everyone in Boyle County knows this is costing a lot. Almost everyone knows that these costs are continuing to increase and getting in the way of funding other perhaps more attractive projects.  Almost everyone knows that officials are now in the process of searching for a variety of strategies to address the jail problem.

More importantly, what some people are beginning to realize is that the jail problem is a problem our entire community must own.

Jailer Barry Harmon and his staff have been reporting that a very high percentage of our detention center’s inmates have substance use disorders and mental health disorders.  Many have both, and many have never received any treatment for these problems.

In addition, we should be alarmed about the high recidivism rates of those who return to jail at least once after being released. Our jail staff reports that recidivism rates are lower for those who actively participate in treatment in the substance abuse program available for a limited number of inmates. The resources have simply not existed to provide the comprehensive and professional services needed by so many.

Our jail problem is a wake-up call to every member of this community to do some things differently. We cannot sit passively by and wait for drugs to disappear. We can no longer expect to be rescued by the failed national “war on drugs.” Heroin and other opiate overdose deaths have not gone away – they continue to leave grieving families and tired first responders among our Boyle County neighbors.

We must self-examine, admit our shortcomings, learn from changes and strategies that are working in other communities and move forward with our own local, specific initiatives. Times of crisis are always times of opportunity, but we must move forward. Our children and grandchildren — the next generation of Boyle County adults — deserve the chance to grow up in a safe, healthy and hopeful community.

As county and city officials look at solutions for our detention center, every citizen can join others who are looking at making some changes. We must all look for short- and long-term answers to the problems manifested in our jail.

Treatment and recovery support options have been lacking in our community for years. Much research exists showing that the cost of assisting people in recovery is worth it.  Helping people be productive, working taxpayers and responsible parents is a goal toward which we can all make contributions. We can urge our officials to invest in programs that assist people to make real, positive changes toward recovery and health, such as the intensive outpatient diversion program currently being considered to be housed at the Red Cross building.

The faith community of Boyle County has begun to own the jail problem as something that belongs to everyone. Churches across Boyle County are beginning to break the silence by talking and praying about addiction in their churches.  Members of the faith community are volunteering at the jail and planning more ways to reach beyond the traditional walls of buildings. While assisting with grieving friends and families of those lost to drug overdoses, they are beginning to plan outreach to youth to alter the intergenerational effects of addiction.

One outreach event is coming up soon. Hope Network, an interdenominational group that developed out of last year’s Hope Over Heroin event, invites all of the community to a service at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 23 at Southland Christian Church Danville Campus to learn about planned programs and ways we can all make a difference.

As our local officials struggle with the jail problem, we can support them by recognizing it is our problem, too, and by recognizing all of us can be part of the solution. We can self-examine and ask ourselves hard questions, such as, “Do I model responsible decision-making and help children and young people know how to deal with life’s challenges without substance misuse?”

The jail problem belongs to all of us. We have an opportunity to step up and tackle this problem as we have others here in Danville and Boyle County — with collaboration, accurate information, widespread community involvement and hope for a better future together.

Kathy L. Miles is coordinator for Boyle County Agency for Substance Abuse Policy (ASAP).