WORKING WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT TO CREATE COMMUNITY LEVEL CHANGE IN LAWRENCE COUNTY

WORKING WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT TO CREATE COMMUNITY LEVEL CHANGE IN LAWRENCE COUNTY

By Jenny Golden Lawrence County Substance Abuse Coalition

Sector Representation is one important piece of a successful coalition. Each sector is extremely important in each realm of influence but I would have to say our Law Enforcement Sector representation has been the piece that is helping us affect environmental change the most in this stage of our coalition development.

In October 2018, a new Sheriff of Lawrence County was elected.  Before John Myers ran for Sheriff, he was the Chief of a small municipality in the North end of our county called Ethridge.  Immediately when LCSAC was formed and the Director was hired, Chief Myers (at the time) reached out and wanted to understand more about Substance Abuse Prevention.  He took the time to ask questions and attend meetings to have a better understanding of Prevention Coalitions and how Law Enforcement could help bring community change in this organization.

Once elected Sheriff of Lawrence County, he wanted to have a Law Enforcement officer back in the schools educating students on the dangers of Drugs and Alcohol.  His initial thoughts were to bring back D.A.R.E. but instead of acting immediately, he consulted the staff of LCSAC to see the best plan of action.  He knew we discuss the importance of programs being evidence based so together, the Sheriff’s Department and LCSAC researched all the options for drug and alcohol education for youth.  Through focus groups and data, he realized that starting to talk to youth at an early age was vital. Utilizing other coalition’s success, he decided to train staff and offer the L.E.A.D (Law Enforcement Against Drugs) curriculum which partnered with the Mendez Foundation to provide the evidence-based curriculum Too Good for Drugs.   This program will be offered to elementary students in after school programs eventually reaching all 5th graders and ending in a summer camp for Health, Safety and Celebration.

Realizing that “prevention” is more than just providing education to students, Sheriff Myers also dedicated a member of his staff as the Prevention Officer.  They partner with LCSAC to provide Retail Compliance Checks which helps follow these non-compliant retailers from check to court date. This allows us to see if cases are falling through the cracks or being thrown out for particular reasons so we can continue to evaluate the way compliance checks are conducted.

Having a direct link to Law Enforcement through the Sheriff and the Prevention Officer is allowing us to assess and evaluate the gaps in our system which over time will allow us to advocate for better processes that will protect our youth.  This relationship is also allowing us to assess gaps in our jail to better serve those suffering from a Substance Use Disorder.  Working to get parenting classes and Vivitrol in the Jails, assisting with setting up a Drug Recovery Court and connecting the faith-based community to help those seeking recovery after they get out of jail are just a few of the things this collaboration has tackled.

As skills are built and better understanding of the potential for positive community change grows, I look forward to seeing this, along with other sector partners, continue to make a positive culture change in Lawrence County and its region.

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Leah Festa

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