County Receives Federal Money to Combat Drug Abuse

County Receives Federal Money to Combat Drug Abuse
By: Carly O'Keefe

MT. VERNON, IL-- Earlier this year, a 25% cut in the Jefferson County Sheriff's budget equaled fewer deputies and a smaller fleet of police cruisers to respond to calls. However there were never fewer calls coming in that needed a response. Now the county will see some federal money to help with drug abuse prevention and intervention efforts within the county.

The $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services won't be deposited into the sheriff's budget to buy back the deputies lost or new cars. The money will instead go towards a local effort to curb the drug problem starting with area youth.

"Methamphetamine has been bad over the past 7 years. Each year we see an increase. That takes a lot of resources we don't have, so we have to make that up in our own budgets," said Sheriff Roger Mulch.

According to Mulch, out of all the inmates housed in the Jefferson County Jail, 60%-70% of them have been arrested on meth-related charges. It's an uphill battle that Mulch says needs to be fought, but in tight-budget times, resources are not abundant.

"For the demand of services we have to ensure public safety, it's a big task and you can only cut so much. So what we're looking at is trying to get the biggest bang for our buck," Mulch said. 

The $100,000 federal grant will help stretch the county's resources beyond the capacity of the current sheriff's budget.

"Even the federal government we're all scrambling for cash... Any way you can bring additional dollars into the community it's helpful, and we try to do that. We get all the credit for it but the credit really goes to the local community that has the program,"said U.S. Representative John Shimkus of Illinois who assisted Jefferson County in receiving the federal funds.

The program is the Mission Impossible Coalition. It links law enforcement, the schools and the community together to teach Jefferson County youth how to lead positive lives without drugs. The idea behind the coalition is to teach kids those lessons early so they'll never have to see the inside of a jail cell.

"It's all about filling in the cracks where you think young people are sliding through. In the long run if you can seal the cracks up and make them productive citizens, ten years from now you don't have to expend the money to straighten them out,"

Mulch says the grant, while it won't cushion his budget today, will help future Jefferson County Sheriffs from fighting the same war against drugs in the community.