GALLIPOLIS — Gallipolis-based attorney, Republican and Gallia County Prosecutor hopeful Jason Holdren recently outlined his plan to combat drugs should he take the prosecutor’s seat this coming Tuesday.
“It’s important to get a plan out there because as we know drug addiction leads to so much more and impacts employers, the user’s immediate family, extended family and neighbors,” said Holdren. “These people will keep pushing and pushing to feed their habit and exploit their elderly grandmother or steal their neighbor’s scrap pile. That’s the kind of thing we’re seeing happen.”
Holdren said his plan would focus not just on reaction but on prevention efforts. Holdren said he supports facilities like Field of Hope and Wing Haven’s therapy techniques but he feels its important to gauge other options in drug combating as well.
“A presence from the prosecutor’s office is essential because if we can put resources towards prevention, then we won’t have the number that we have of people that are addicted down the road,” said Holdren.
Holdren said he would like to use money in the law enforcement trust fund to fund prevention efforts. The fund is made up of money collected from forfeitures in drug busts. He would like to hold public forums and school assemblies bringing in personalities of note who could use their reputations to spread their experiences and eventual recovery from addiction as a way of sticking a message into the mind of Gallia’s youth. Holdren said he would like to see more public demonstrations and seminars like Franklin County’s Operation Street Smart program come to Gallia more often. The program features Franklin County Sheriff’s Office narcotics investigators educating the public about the latest drug trends and smuggling techniques as a means of prevention. The program helps to teach families how to recognize the signs of addiction in teenagers as well.
The program visited Gallia in May of this year as a joint effort between Health Recovery Services, Gallia County Sheriff’s Office, Gallia Citizens for Prevention and Recovery and the Gallia-Jackson-Meigs Board of Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services.
Holdren said he would also like to see potential fourth and fifth-degree drug offenders who have only carried drugs and suffer from an addiction given the option of some kind of help but held accountable for their choices. Traffickers and dealers must be held to the highest penalty possible of the law.
“We need to get to the root of the problem (addiction) and address it and I think that can partly be done through bond restrictions, ” said Holdren. “(During his time as an assistant prosecutor in Vinton County), as part of someone’s bond we would say those individuals would need to get a drug assessment, they would be subject to random drug screens. I have found it effective that when someone comes for their pretrial hearings to randomly screen.”
Holdren said that he was an advocate of drug courts.
“Drug court is the idea that there is a two or three year period where (an offender) meets at least once a week with (justice officials) to discuss their progress,” Holdren said. “Typically they assess the needs of an individual’s need whether that is mental health or drug addiction. We find the kind of treatment they need. If someone messes up there are immediate consequences. To effectively address addiction, it doesn’t work to say you failed a drug screen so we’re going to file a motion and come into court three weeks later to see whether you violated your probation. Drug court says you meet every week and if the judge finds someone has failed a drug screen, they can say you’re going to jail (for however long). I would like to see the common pleas court has have a drug court for low level felons.”
Holdren said he would also recommend diversion programs out of the prosecutor’s office if the court would not adopt a drug court system. A diversion plan would allow an offender to meet with a diversion officer to find and plan how to best address getting that person back on the road towards sobriety.
“These types of things will help address drug issues,” said Holdren. “Simple probation doesn’t work anymore.”
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.