Gaston County Continues
Drug Diversion and Treatment
Leaders find funds to keep successful jail substance use recovery program for another year
It saves families. It saves lives. It saves money. So, when funding ran out, the county police chief and manager scraped for the money to keep people out of jails and managing their substance use.
The successful Drug Diversion and Treatment Program was in danger due to budget cuts. Now, with money to continue for another year, Gaston County Police Chief Joseph Ramey and the DDAT committee are focused on making the program better. And their eyes are on what future funding could mean for the community.
The drug diversion and treatment program began in January 2017. Chief Ramey invited community partners to find a more effective approach to solving the opioid and heroin abuse problem in Gaston County. They developed the drug diversion and treatment program to emphasize rehabilitation and treatment over incarceration. Partners Behavioral Health Management provided $266,679 for the initial year of the program.
Like most counties in the US, Gaston County is seeing a spike in prescription and illegal opioid use. This increase is leading to more citizens living with addiction. Along with health problems, overdoses and death, job loss, family stress, and bad environments for children, addiction often leads to crime. Jails are not funded or staffed to treat substance use disorder. Jails are not designed to house and support substance use treatment programs. As a result, 87% of people in jail for crimes related to opioids return to jail after being released, according to Chief Ramey.
“I knew we couldn’t arrest our way out of this,” said Chief Ramey. “We needed to take a more holistic approach to treating folks who are addicted. We have an opportunity to reach people who are at their worst, provide them with treatment, assistance, and training, and see them return to their community as productive citizens.”
During the first year, the treatment program moved 23 participants out of jail and into a treatment facility for up to 120 days of intensive services and supports. The results are a huge success.
- Returned 21 people to society without repeat offenses
- Saved $203,680 in pre-trial housing costs alone
- Avoided spending resources on trial, sentencing, and incarceration
- Provided training for skill-building and employment
- Broke the cycle of repeat offenses and the cost associated
- Connected participants to resources like Peer Support
- Reunited parents and children (for participants with dependents)
- Received endorsement from U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis
Chief Ramey is determined to continue “impacting the community in a positive manner by giving people their lives back.” He worked closely with Gaston County Manager, Earl Mathers, to find $140,000 in one-time funding. Ramey was also awarded an $8,800 grant from The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). The more money the program receives, the more people it can serve for the year.
With an additional $350,000, a vacant building once used as a juvenile detention facility could be remodeled to permanently house the treatment program. A permanent location makes rent and treatment dollars go further, could host other diversion programs, and creates the space to serve more participants at one time. Ramey continues to target local organizations, pharmaceutical companies, and grants to find funding.