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Letter to the Editor

A couple of weeks ago or more an article was published here in the Messenger talking with Sheriff Wimpee about his “war on drugs”. There were a few issues I had with the way the Sheriff discussed the work his department has been doing. With a clear statement that they were and will continue to fight this war on drugs it saddened me. When law enforcement takes up a “war on drugs” they take up a war against the people.

Drug addiction is a disease first and foremost. There are many in our community who wish not to see those they consider less. Drug addicts and others they wish not to see. It takes away fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, and slaps one word on them. Addict. Criminal. Worthless. Many in the county love the rhetoric of a war on drugs. But it has ruined lives.

That article mentioned earlier also included a bit about the assets the department seized. Over a year the Meade County Sheriff’s Department took in roughly $283,264 in cash during drug arrests.That money is put into a fund for the department that can only be used for law enforcement purposes. What does that mean though? Who decides what counts as law enforcement purposes? And does arresting and jailing as many people as possible actually accomplish anything?

Well, as shown in a breakdown of the 2018 budget proposal, in the year 2017 the county spent $5 million of the roughly $16 million county budget on law enforcement. In those budgets includes a Drug Rehabilitation and Prevention category under the sheriff’s budget. The total spent? $3800. We are in one of the most afflicted states in the country in regard to opioid deaths and abuse as well as excessive drinking, about 16% of our population in Meade County drinks too much. These are not law enforcement issues. These are health care issues that have run out of control, and you don’t throw cancer patients in jail for having cancer.

As it currently stands the sheriff’s department has an incentive to go out and LOOK for drug crimes,thus creating more crime than would have been reported otherwise. This allows them to take whatever cash is on scene as evidence and then that cash goes into their fund...that they can spend on “law enforcement purposes”. Why would the Meade County Sheriff’s Office seek to cure this issue when they are doing nothing but profiting to the tune of a quarter of a million dollars? Instead here is what needs to be done with that money.

That $283,264 that they have taken in should be put into a new fund. One that is focused on a healthcare approach to addiction and not a punitive approach. We need to love our neighbors and assist them when they are in need. And they’re in desperate need right now. This new fund would go to hiring and paying Drug and Rehabilitation workers that are trained to help fight addiction. The county could easily take the excess bloat in the sheriff’s budget anyway, (they never spend all their money anyway) and put even more funds into building a facility and making Meade County a beacon of hope in an otherwise dreary battle against opioids and addiction.

Sheriff Wimpee can keep fighting his drug wars against the people if he wants. It isn’t doing anything but making those our community considers undesirable go away for a bit. I know you are a man who would like to see healing in our county. We don’t have the Sons of Anarchy running around. We have sick people who are looking to get better but have no options except two. 1. Get another fix. 2. Get caught and go to jail, get out and use again.

Let’s move Drug Prevention and Rehab into our health and wellness category of the county budget, and give our community the resources it needs to heal and overcome this horrible epidemic.

P.S. Decriminalize and legalize cannabis, and free non-violent offenders that were victims of the War on Drugs EVERYWHERE in our country.

By Don Gene (Pen Name)