Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down May 1

Published 7:56 am Tuesday, May 1, 2018

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Shepherd’s House drug treatment program

Boyle and Mercer counties’ outpatient drug treatment program for inmates of the local jail is great, but there’s a problem: It’s too successful.

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Former inmates keep graduating from the program, having developed skills to combat addiction issues and found ways to move forward with their lives without returning to drugs or jail.

The counties can’t fill the newly opened slots in the program as quickly as they’re opening up. The most recently released numbers put the program, run by the Shepherd’s House, at less than half of its maximum capacity.

Now, that’s not only due to graduates leaving the program. It’s also because the criminal justice systems in the two counties aren’t as good as they could be at identifying candidates from among those being prosecuted and enrolling them in the program.

According to Boyle County Attorney Lynne Dean, she needs more accurate records from the jail in order to better spot potential Shepherd’s House clients.

There’s also a learning curve to deal with for everyone involved, because it is a unique program. Boyle and Mercer counties didn’t create a carbon copy of another program that had already seen success somewhere else; they and the Shepherd’s House crafted this program from scratch in an attempt to do something to shatter the mold.

We can’t overstate how important it was to accomplish that. The addiction problem in this country isn’t going away any time soon and it doesn’t even seem like we’re on the upswing yet. Defeating a culturally epidemic problem like drugs requires an out-of-the-box, radical solution, and that’s exactly what the Shepherd’s House program is.

You can’t implement a completely new paradigm without some hiccups, some stops and starts, some problems. Fortunately, this is pretty much the best problem you could hope for.

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Political participation in Boyle County

We’re in the middle of running profiles on every contested Boyle County race in this May’s primary election — a task that’s taking more than a week to accomplish because of all the people running for elected office.

That’s a good thing for the health of local government.

When there are numerous options in an election, it means there are people who care about how government is run.

It also means voters get more choices, upping the chances that one of those choices speaks to their needs.

And it means the candidates improve themselves and take the jobs they want more seriously — because they must if they want to beat their competition.

A candidate without an opponent is similar to a business with a monopoly. A monopolistic business can still be good — it can provide dependable service and treat its customers fairly. But there are no disincentives to raising prices or cheapening the product because no one can steal your customers away.

A candidate without an opponent can still be a good candidate — he or she can listen to constituents, balance competing interests and put the good of the whole ahead of special interests. But without competition, there’s less cost to shirking those duties.

Fortunately in Boyle County, we have a lot of contested races in the primary and even more contested races in the general election. Vigorous competition in 2018 is a great recipe for good government in 2019.