Sevier County receives $1.1M in opioid money for drug abatement
TEXARKANA, Ark. — Sevier County Sheriff’s Office and Bridging the Gaps of Arkansas recently received financial awards to advance their missions of creating drug-free communities and assisting former addicts to remain sober.
The funding was distributed during an Arkansas Opioid Recovery Partnership presentation April 21 at the Association of Arkansas Counties in Little Rock.
The Sheriff’s Office received $1,118,217 for community outreach for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals, prioritizing individuals with opioid use disorder. Bridging the Gaps garnered $25,000 for personalized training with Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, or CADCA, to enhance “grassroots efforts toward reducing opioid misuse,” ARORP said in a press release.
Sevier County Sheriff Robert Gentry, who attended the presentation with Jail Administrator Chris Wolcott, said his department’s award will be paid over three years in annuities of $372,739. The money is earmarked for the county jail’s residential substance abuse program and for community outreach. Specifically, the award will help to cover salaries for two full-time program coordinators, two full-time peer-recovery specialists, one part-time peer-recovery specialist, and substance abuse and drug counselors.
Gentry praised the residential substance abuse program, which launched in 2017. He said 50 inmates participate in the program annually, and that only 18% of participants become repeat drug offenders. The program boasts a more than 70% success rate.
“It has saved the state of Arkansas quite a bit of money,” Gentry said Friday to the Gazette, referring to low recidivism among program participants.
Sevier County’s community outreach initiative provides a number of free programs for those trying to shake substance addictions, including Alcoholics Anonymous, drug counseling and mental health services, the sheriff said.
Gentry also is excited about the possibility to use the ARORP funding to invigorate the county’s block party-style community events. The plan over the coming months is to hold outings in Ben Lomond, Lockesburg, Horatio, De Queen, Gillham and then a large final event in De Queen.
“We want to create an area where they (residents) can interact with law enforcement without there being law enforcement action,” Gentry said.
Also, as a member of ARORP’s Naloxone Community Heroes program, Sevier County Sheriff’s Office will use the community events to distribute free doses of naloxone.
Gentry said the $1.1 million award will boost his department’s efforts not only to keep Sevier County communities safe as a whole, but to ensure the welfare of the individual.
“If you can help them and straighten them up, it’s better than feeding them” in jail, he said.
Bridging the Gaps of Arkansas, based in Texarkana, is one of 13 drug abatement programs in the state awarded $25,000 through the Coalition Partnership Empowerment initiative. Managing Partner Barbara Pitts Riley — citing CADCA President/CEO Gen. Barrye L. Price — said CADCA training funded by the award will allow Bridging the Gaps to be a sustainable, transformative force. To that end, she foresees reactivating a community coalition of adults and youths.
“Community coalitions continue to be at the epicenter of addressing the opioid epidemic in our communities, so it is vital that we get training to be successful,” she said to the Gazette.
Part of the COPE project includes positioning Arkansas coalitions to meet application requirements of the federal Drug Free Communities Support Program in 2024.
“If every coalition were selected for the program, then Arkansas cities and counties could receive up to $16 million in DFC funding over the next 10 years,” the ARORP release states.
The other COPE awardees were Amazing Angels, Chicot County; The Young Artist Studio, Union County; Sebastian County Opioid Task Force, Sebastian and Scott counties; Carroll County Hometown Health, Carroll County; Prevention Awareness Youth Support (PAYS), Baxter and Marion counties; Newton County Hometown Health, Newton County; Greene County Mental Health and Substance Abuse, Greene County; The Harvest House, Clark County; Madison County Health Coalition, Madison County; Healing in the Hood, Mississippi County; Succeeding in Success, Desha County; and DAAF Youth Coalition, Ashley County.
Three other projects received ARORP funding along with Sevier County Sheriff’s Office.
Natural State Recovery received $402,134.88 to purchase a facility for conversion into an outpatient recovery center in downtown Little Rock.
In Logan County, Western Arkansas Counseling and Guidance Center received $738,903 to renovate Horizon Renewal Center, a voluntary, secure adult substance use disorder residential treatment facility in Booneville. They also received $104,736 for a peer support specialist for the Logan County Community and Jail Recovery Project.
The Arkansas Opioid Recovery Partnership is an initiative of the Arkansas Municipal League and the Association of Arkansas Counties. It oversees the disbursement of millions of dollars the state receives from national agreements with opioid manufacturers and distributors to settle claims that the companies fueled the opioid crisis.
ARORP distributes the money at the city and county levels, and works to reduce overdose deaths through prevention, treatment, enforcement and recovery. To learn more and submit a request for funding, visit arorp.org.