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Prevention, law enforcement needed for substance abuse

My Opinion
Ross Schulz, Staff Writer

The Harrison County Council will discuss a request of $65,000 next month during its 2012 budget sessions for a drug/alcohol prevention specialist through the Harrison County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition.
The substance abuse prevention group needs to be a part of the county’s allotment of riverboat gaming funds, but the full $65,000 may be too much for the council to swallow, especially since the financial committee of the council aims to incorporate all budgeted items in county general, CEDIT fund or the Rainy Day fund. Any additional budgeted items above last year’s budget will make it difficult to follow through with the committee’s plan.
Harrison County, according to coalition member Jeff Skaggs, is well above the state average for substance abuse in youth. Eighty 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, 90 percent of juvenile offenders suffer from substance abuse issues and 100 percent of the county’s alternative education center students have substance abuse issues.
These figures are alarming and leave no doubt that there’s a need for prevention efforts.
Skaggs, at a recent budget hearing, said each dollar spent on prevention saves an average of $18. The statistic seems nearly impossible to calculate but, if it’s even remotely close to being accurate, then it’s well worth using more dollars for prevention efforts, as long as it doesn’t take away from law enforcement funding.
The war against the ‘war on drugs’ through law enforcement makes little sense. If people are using illegal drugs ‘ and they always will, some way, some how ‘ prevention is useless in their case and law enforcement is the only chance these users and those around them have. A good balance of prevention and law enforcement is the best option Harrison County can provide to curb substance abuse.
Whether the county funds $30,000 or the full $65,000 or even seeks another route to provide prevention measures, the evidence proves prevention is needed.