Sheriff to seek grant to help combat addiction

By Greg Oliver
Courtesy The Journal

PICKENS — Pickens County Sheriff Rick Clark said he is committed to cleaning up the county’s drug problem, evidenced by the results of the recent “Operation Community Response.”

But Clark also acknowledges that simply putting those charged with illegal possession or distribution of drugs behind bars isn’t the solution.

“We can’t arrest our way out of this problem — we know that, and we’re not naïve,” Clark said at a Thursday afternoon news conference. “What’s not working is arresting people and turning them out.”

As a result, Clark said he planned to submit an application Monday for the Recovery Program Transformation and Innovation Fund Grant.

The grant’s purpose is to mitigate the long-term social and economic costs of substance abuse and move clients from an active chronic disease state into recovery.

The grant is open to all agencies and is for collaboration and integration of services, specifically partnerships with criminal justice agencies, such as jails and courts, as well as healthcare providers and schools.

Clark said the sheriff’s office is working with Mental Health and Behavioral Health Services on the grant application.

“Our main goal is not to have that person hooked on meth or having mental issues come back to the jail,” Clark said. “Methamphetamine is such a divisive and consuming drug — it’s destroying their families, and we have to address it.

“Approximately 70 to 80 percent of those arrested as a result of this investigation are the same individuals arrested in the past, especially with meth, because it is so addictive. It’s the same people over and over, and we’re doing the same thing that’s not working. So we’re wanting to do something different through mental health and behavioral health.”

Shortly after becoming sheriff in January 2014, Clark said he created a position manned by a narcotics officer “right off the bat.”

In addition, the sheriff’s office’s community action team was created to enable the public to assist the sheriff’s office in reporting crimes — including drugs — throughout the county.

“That has been a huge success,” he said.

From July 2014 through Oct. 31 the sheriff said there have been 153 cases of methamphetamine, two heroin, five involving cocaine and 88 cases of possession of marijuana.

“People know when there’s something wrong in their neighborhoods, and we encourage them to contact us,” Clark said. “We’re asking neighborhoods to be our partner in trying to stop them, and the community has been a tremendous help.”

But the sheriff said treatment for addiction problems, highlighted by meth, is the way the sheriff’s office is going to have to go to address the drug issue in Pickens County.

The jail situation in Pickens County remains overcrowded, with no relief in sight — to the point where Clark said the 38 drug arrests that recently occurred had to take place “when the jail wasn’t as full.”

As recently as last week, chief deputy Creed Hashe reported that the jail population had spiked to 226 even though it has a rated capacity of only 93.

Clark said there are a limited amount of grants awarded and many agencies seeking them.

“I would say within a month and a half, we should hear something (on whether the sheriff’s office grant application is approved),” Clark said. | (864) 973-6687

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