Badges of Hope reaches out to victims of addiction

Substance abusers struggling to break their addiction are not likely to view law enforcement as their best shot for an improved life.

In fact, they may consider anyone with a badge as someone to avoid.

But Lyon County Sheriff Brent White wants to change that.

"Victims of addiction usually see a police officer at the worst time of their life," said White, his words expressing compassion for those who fall prey to dependency on illicit drugs. "For them, a badge is a bad association."

As a former Kentucky state trooper and commander of Post 2 in Madisonville, White has seen firsthand the devastation substance abuse has on individual lives and families. But as a first-term sheriff in his native Lyon County, the scourge hits closer to home.

Badges of Hope, a program implemented Nov. 7, encourages Lyon County residents struggling with addiction to turn to law enforcement for help. Users looking to kick the habit are encouraged to approach the sheriff or one of his deputies about entering rehab.

There will be no judgment; but most importantly, there will be no charges.

"If you are on drugs in Lyon County, we want to help," White said. "We want them to see hope. It's not always the worst thing in your life when you see this badge."

The sheriff's department will assist victims of addiction confidentially enter a treatment program.

Through a partnership with Kentucky Addiction Centers, which has a facility in Paducah, the sheriff will help users enter treatment regardless of insurance or ability to pay.

"If they don't have a financial means, we will find away to get it free," said White, who joins McCracken County Sheriff Matt Carter in implementing a partnership between their respective departments and Kentucky Addiction Centers.

The treatment facility agreed with the two sheriffs to accept patients into their program at a reduced or no cost if they approach the department in their respective county.

Only residents of Lyon County will be able to enter treatment through White's department.

And the offer is a not a get-out-of-jail-free card by any means.

"This is not for people trying to negotiate their an arrest or better their court disposition," White explained.

In other words, if you are already facing an arrest or charges for drug possession, it is too late.

The aim, White said, is to take away the customer base of dealers.

That is more important than ever the 25-year law enforcement officer. He said methamphetamine coming into the area from Mexico is cheaper and more pure than ever before, creating a perfect storm for addiction.

"We want to encourage our way out of this mess," he said. "Jail offers a chance for someone to dry out, but no treatment."

Badges of Hope has already been in practice locally, if not by name. Since becoming sheriff a year ago, White has helped three substance abusers enter treatment without charges.

Two of the three have cleaned up their lives, he indicated.

To contact Lyon County Sheriff's Department about the Badges of Hope initiative, call 270-388-2311.