An effort to help recovering drug addicts find jobs got a boost from the Scott County Fiscal Court at its meeting last Thursday.
Scott County will be joining with Fayette County Urban Government and Madison County on the program. Judge Brian Privett addressed the council on how he thinks the grant could be a benefit in Scott County at the request of County Judge-Executive Joe Pat Covington.
There is a lot of federal money available to combat the opioid crisis, Privett said, but this grant was from the Department of Labor which makes it more unique. The grant will offer job training for people in recovery in fields that require technical skills “we all know we need but there aren’t enough people.
“HVAC technicians, licensed electricians, those areas we know we don’t have enough people in. One thing that excited me was CDL licenses. We have a factory in Bourbon County that can’t get drivers because they can’t find anyone that can pass the drug test,” Privett said. “This is the exact set of job skills we know we need.”
He did say this would differ from the people he places in drug court.
“I would not put drug court folks in there because we already get federal funds for that,” Privett said. “We put high-risk people in drug court. That leaves about 95 percent of the people that come through court on drug charges with nothing out there for them.”
Having a job is a key factor to helping people recover from addiction and stay sober.
“The one thing you want to do for people in recovery is give them a job. It gives them something to do and have a purpose,” Privett said. “Yeah you can work at a fast food place, but that doesn’t give them that sense of pride and purpose. If they obtain that license, it gives them a purpose to work and keep it because of all the work they put in toward earning the license.”
This program could also help with the flagrant non-support cases he sees coming through his courtroom, he said.
“I don’t know how many people we have come for flagrant non-support and every single one of them says I can’t get a job because I’m a felon,” Privett said. “Well, a lot of them can’t get a job because they are on drugs. If we have a program that gives them an incentive to make this change, it would help.
“This is a huge carrot for them. It gives them a career instead of doing odd jobs or day labor.”
The stick is he will know if they don’t show up for work or don’t get drug tested.
“I control their ability to stay free,” he said. “Some people will have trouble filling out the application, but we can make them sit down right there to fill it out.”
Privett could only see one shortfall with the grant, he said.
“It is only for 30 people. We could use 300 spots,” he said, and Covington said they anticipate that number increasing over time.
There is an application process to identify potential applicants for those 30 spots, Covington said. He said Judge Jeremy Mattox also mentioned the flagrant non-support issue he and Privett have seen.
“When this came across at a meeting, it seemed like a tool to help people deal with addiction,” Covington said.
Magistrate Rick Hostetler said he can see a benefit from this. His company has hired three people that have had drug issues and in recovery. One of the three had left already, but the two that have stayed have worked hard.
“It is a daily grind for them and the job does give them something to go too,” he said.
Privett said you don’t want someone just 30 days clean, but a year or two into sobriety because they have proven they are ready to take the next step.
The grant was approved after a motion from Hostetler and a second from Bill Burke.
In other action and discussion:
— Continued discussion on the lighting issue at Sutton Field where the Scott County High School baseball team plays. The current lighting structures, which are more than 25 years old, put out light that is below the recommended level by the Kentucky High School Association.
“It is a safety hazard playing underneath lights that are not regulation,” said Scott Willard, SCHS baseball coach. “The baseball team and boosters have done a lot of work on that field ourselves,” including a new scoreboard and backstop. The county and schools have been discussion redoing the usage agreement for the field, which has not been updated in several years.
Covington has been in discussions with Verizon to put in a tower in the field, which would also include new lights on six poles that would meet guidelines and also bring in monthly revenue to the county, he said. That would reduce the cost of the project.
Willard said a recent tournament had 15 teams playing on the field, and the county hosted the regional baseball tournament and the dimness of the lights made it “tricky” to get the games in.
“It is a unique situation because of the ownership and usage agreements,” Covington said. “I have also talked with Planning and Zoning because the proper thing would probably have it go through the proper procedure and the court can decide to proceed.”
Magistrate Bill Burke questioned why the sudden emphasis on the lights at the high school field.
“Was the lights bad, four years ago, two years ago, a year ago,” Burke said. “It never came up, and then we have a new judge-executive and boom, we need lights.”
“The lights are 25 years old, if you go 25 years without updating and maintaining it comes time to replace them,” Magistrate David Livingston said, adding it has been discussed among different people for several years, including school personnel, just not brought before the court for action.
“So now we are negotiating with the schools,” Burke said, prompting Livingston to say it has not been a negotiation, but just discussion.
Magistrate Kelly Corman thought it should be looked at by the capital improvement project committee to prioritize it among other projects.
— Approved joining the City of Georgetown in a BUILD Grant for work to be done on Connector Road, Old Oxford Road and Lexus Way. This is a grant the city and county applied for last year, but city officials believe they may have a better chance this year as many of the projects applied for are in more rural areas. David Livingston and Kelly Corman made the first and second on the motion and it passed unanimously.
— Approved a bid for a new EMS ambulance. It will cost about $210,000 from Southeast Apparatus and should have the ambulance ready by December or January. This ambulance will replace a 2004 model.
— Approved the hiring of a new county firefighter, bringing the total of new employees for the department to four.
— Michelle Ray was reappointed treasurer. She and others have been learning a new computer system to upgrade from the DOS system.
Steve McClain can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.