Mayor Urges Study of County Drug Treatment Strategy

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At the April 4 meeting of the Berea City Council, Mayor Steve Connelly urged officials and the community to study a Madison County Fiscal Court proposal that would address drug abuse and possibly relieve chronic over-crowding at the Madison County Detention Center. Connelly characterized the new program as “audacious and visionary.”

Yesterday’s Richmond Register [April 3] announced that the Madison Fiscal Court is requesting proposals for a “healing center” as an alternative to incarceration and a solution to the expanding jail population that now exceeds 400 inmates, with 40 housed outside Madison County, in a facility that was built to house 184.

The “healing center” envisions taking people in the early stages of substance abuse, providing initial detox and then long-term addiction recovery.

Participants would then move to vocational training and be given internships working for county agencies such as the animal shelter, solid waste and road departments. They would also receive “life skill” training and transitional housing. The program is designed to continue helping participants after they are discharged.

This proposal is posted on the county’s website: madisoncountyky.us and is due July 7, 2017. The names of potential contractors will be announced August 2. The Fiscal Court will decide whether to begin negotiations for a contract on August 7.

I urge all council members, but especially those on the Audit and Finance and Economic Development committees, to read this 28-page RFP. It states, in part, that the population of the current jail will average 600 inmates by 2020 and that expanding the current 184- bed jail to an 800-bed facility would cost approximately $50 million.

The RFP explains that the services of the rehabilitation and vocational center will include, but not be limited to, a three-phased program where individuals will move from the medical detox/30-day treatment and recovery program, to vocational and life-skills training, then to independent living and workforce placement.

The Fiscal Court plans to construct the rehabilitation and vocational center and pay the capital cost of property and facilities, estimates that the facility will serve approximately 300 people annually. Planning and construction of the Center is anticipated to begin in the Spring of 2018.

This is an audacious and visionary program. It will also come at a time when the three governments of Madison County are planning to support financially the expansion of the Madison Airport and EKU’s growing Aviation program as well as experiencing the impact of a shrinking presence at the Depot when the nerve gas rockets are neutralized. It will also represent a competing vision for vocational training of workers.

There are significant public policy issues entwined in this proposal, and all Madison County leaders should study and discuss it as the Fiscal Court wrestles with this intractable responsibility.

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