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Funding requested for drug/alcohol prevention specialist

The Harrison County Board of Commissioners and Council began the 2012 budget process July 18, with hearings for most of the agencies that receive riverboat gaming funds on an annual basis from the county.
Most of the requests included the same amount of funding as last year, but not all, including Jeff Skaggs, with the Harrison County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition, who requested $65,000 for a prevention specialist. The HCSAPC was not a part of the riverboat gaming budget last year.
Skaggs said each dollar spent on prevention saves an average of $18. Substance abuse aftercare programs average less than 30 percent success rate, he said, and effective substance abuse prevention strategies will not only save tax dollars, but will prove a safer, more healthy environment for residents.
Skaggs gave the board members a handout which included the following facts regarding substance abuse in Harrison County: Sheriff Rodney (Rod) Seelye stated 80 percent of Harrison County inmates suffer from substance abuse issues; 75 percent of adult probationers were arrested for alcohol- or drug-related crimes or suffer from alcohol or drug disruption; Chief Juvenile Probation Officer Liz Day estimated that 90 percent of juvenile offenders suffer from substance abuse issues; and Debbie Heazlitt, director of the Harrison County Alternative Education Center, said 100 percent of her students have substance abuse issues.
‘We are way above the state average … ‘ Skaggs said. ‘Our kids are out of control.’
A prevention specialist would work with county schools to provide a consistent educational message concerning substance abuse prevention. The specialist would also provide information to county residents through town halls, county events, social and traditional media and personal contact and communicate and organize possible increased sanctions through current legal penalties or civil ordinances to curb substance abuse activity.
Basically, the specialist will prepare students to have the skills to say, ‘No.’
The joint county boards also heard from Richard Goodwin of the Harrison County Chaplain’s Association. He said he has two volunteers, Mary and Gary Decker, who have lightened his load considerably.
‘They’re a real blessing in more ways than one,’ Goodwin said.
So far this year, the association has assisted 336 people with a total of more than $6,000 spent, Goodwin said, and they have baptized 80 inmates in the Harrison County Jail.
Goodwin said, in the past, he had to pay for vehicle repairs out of his budget, which proved costly.
Commissioner James Goldman said his vehicle was a county car and it should have been paid for by the commissioners. He said former Sheriff G. Michael Deatrick directed him to pay for it out of his own budget.
‘You should have come to this group of sheriffs,’ Goldman said. ‘We think a little bit differently.’
Goodwin said that things have improved greatly with the new sheriff.
The council will begin line-by-line 2012 budget deliberations in September.