Franklin Co. Sheriff’s Office working to divert addicts from jail and into treatment

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COLUMBUS (WCMH) – The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office said it recognizes it needs to take a different approach to mental health issues and helping people addicted to opiates.

Chief Deputy Earl Smith presented the new “Community Intervention and Diversion” or CID team, in front of Columbus city leaders and gubernatorial candidate Rich Cordray on Monday.

He said instead of putting addicts and people in a mental health crisis in jail, they want to put them into treatment.

Brandy is a 25-year-old recovering heroin addict in the MaryHaven Women’s Program.

“It’s a disease. It’s real. It takes over people’s families,” she said.

She had been using drugs since she was 15 and had served six months in jail.

“Jail doesn’t care. There’s no sort of treatment. I got out and wanted to use,” said Brandy. “Before they just looked at you like you were a statistic, you’re an inmate. They looked at you like you were nothing, forgot you were a human being.”

The CID team is being assembled now. All deputies in the unit will focus entirely on helping people in a mental health crisis.

“What we have been doing, we’re making arrests and not paying any attention to the underlying cause of the problem,” said Chief Deputy Smith. “They don’t get the treatment that they need and when they’re released they go out and do the same thing over and over again. So, it doesn’t work.”

He said deputies in the unit will be specially trained with Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) and mental health first aid.

Sheriff Dallas Baldwin said in 2010 they had 145 probate warrants to serve. That number skyrocketed to 1,800 last year.

“There’s such a direct correlation with them (probate warrants) to the opioid crisis in the community,” said Sheriff Baldwin. “As that rises, all the overdoses and then your mental health issues and the probates rise at the same rate and it’s just such a drain on our resources.”

Diverting addicts and people in crisis away from jail and into treatment is something Brandy is happy to hear.

On Tuesday, she celebrates being clean for nine months with her 6-month-old son, Carmaurie.

She has a message for all struggling addicts: “If I can do it, you can do it. You’re worth it. You really are. Your life is worth it.”

The CID team will have a supervisor and four deputies. The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office hopes to double that number of officers next year.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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