PRESTONSBURG — As state and federal agencies tighten their grips on pill pipelines, other serious drugs, with their own unique problems, are beginning to see resurgence in Eastern Kentucky, warned Floyd District Judge Eric Hall, during a meeting Tuesday of the Communities Against Drug Addiction.
Hall was the guest speaker during Tuesday’s meeting of Communities Against Drug Addiction (CADA), and took time to discuss current law enforcement concerns, as well as the benefits of drug court.
Hall said that it is tough to determine if the law enforcement and judicial communities are making any real progress in the war on drugs. “It ebbs and flows,” Hall said. “It’s hard to say whether it’s getting worse, better or anything like that.”
However, Hall says recent work by state and federal law enforcement communities has tightened the grip on “pill mills” and interstate drug trafficking in prescription medications. But Hall warned, “Drug addiction is kind of like trying to grab a hold of a wet bar of soap. You grab it and it squirts somewhere else.”
Drugs typically associated with urban areas may be making their way into Floyd County, Hall said, as the ease of access and affordability of so many prescription narcotics has been choked off. He said the vacuum created by a reduction in prescription drugs being brought into the region has created a fertile area for outside criminal elements to bring in other, potentially devastating drugs.
“We’re seeing the return of some very, very destructive drugs. Heroin, mainly,” Hall said. “We’re seeing cartels out of Ohio and other places that are developing. We’re seeing connections with Mexican drug gangs, and I can tell you, folks, you don’t want those guys to be your neighbors. These are violent folks who stop at nothing.”
Hall says conversations he has had with local and regional drug interdiction units indicate drug battles are on the horizon.
“That’s a looming battle,” said Hall.
More and more methamphetamine labs are also springing up, Hall said. Meth labs that employ the “shake and bake” method of creating crystal meth have been steadily increasing.
“We’re making progress in a lot of our drug issues, but that doesn’t mean it’s being eliminated. So many times, it just rolls off into some other direction.”
Recovery programs are also making progress, said Hall, who announced the graduation of another eight drug court participants during a ceremony to be held in September. “It will be our largest graduation,” Hall said.
Drug court is a three-phase program, which provides recovery meetings, structured drug testing, and access to education and employment opportunities. Optimum participation takes at least 15 months to complete, though Hall admits that is very rare. Hall says drug court officials understand the difficulty in weaning a community off drugs, and provide every opportunity for participants to succeed. The participants’ success is the program’s success, says Hall.
“It works. It absolutely works. Better than anything I’ve seen,” Hall said. “There’s one truth, and that’s: Jail does not solve alcoholism or drug addiction.”
According to Hall, criminal offenders who serve time in jail without receiving any treatment will most often repeat offend within 30 days.
There are also other programs, such as Pretrial Substance Abuse Program (PSAP), a lock-down program that Hall says has been beneficial to people before they move into drug court.
“Were integrating several of those folks who come out of PSAP into our drug court program.” said Hall. “Those that do seem to have some element of treatment before coming into drug court, generally do better. It’s not an overall rule, but it seems that they do a little better job.”
According to Hall, the Floyd County Drug Court is on par with the national average of about 15 percent recidivism. “Our drug court graduates are from all over the country and in very good paying jobs now.”
Hall says the drug court program will mark its 10-year anniversary in Floyd County in March of next year.
CADA holds monthly meetings at the First Presbyterian Church in Prestonsburg, which regularly features guest speakers from law enforcement, judicial, or health and recovery related fields. There will be no meeting of the group in July.