Daniel Suddeath

Daniel Suddeath

It wasn't a shock to discover that Barren County set a record in 2018 for indictments.

The number of people being charged with felonies has sharply increased as illegal drugs — specifically methamphetamine in our area — continue to ravage our country. Kentucky as a state has been dealt a heavy blow by drug abuse, and like many rural areas, Barren County has also endured the hardships caused by addiction.

It's easy to judge people when we read about them being arrested for possessing controlled substances, but it's an epidemic that can't be policed or shamed away.

But the reality is we need more resources to grapple with this plague.

Let's start at the beginning. Law enforcement is charged with policing our streets, and thus, they are responsible for making the arrests that ultimately lead to indictments. While our police officers have better technology at their disposal than in the past, they certainly aren't making more arrests because they suddenly decided to throw more people in jail for using and possessing drugs.

There are more drugs on the street, so police officers are spending more time making drug arrests.

So with more law enforcement resources being used for drug policing, calls for service in other areas will put more of a strain on our state police, sheriff's deputies and city police.

Then we have the additional pressure placed on the judicial system due to the increase in indictments. More cases mean more work for case workers, probation and parole officers and the Commonwealth's Attorney. Naturally, judges will have to hear more cases, which could mean delays and create a backlog.

Most of us don't want to see drug offenders serve lengthy sentences, but when more people have drug charges, they require court supervision. Again, that requires more resources.

If we want to just lock people up and leave them in jail, that creates another problem. Overcrowding in jails has been a common problem around the state, which is why many court systems seek other means for dealing with low-level drug offenders.

The most important part of the equation is treatment. How are we helping people break the cycle of drug use? Of course, the responsibility most immediately lies with the person who is using drugs. However, based on the examples mentioned above, it's easy to understand how helping drug addicts is important to use from a financial standpoint if the moral responsibility isn't enough to convince you otherwise.

It's a perplexing problem and one without a silver bullet to solve. But we can't expect the system to maintain all of the weight of this drug epidemic without more resources.

Aside from the law enforcement and judicial system, we must as a community do a better job of educating people about the dangers of drug use and refusing to accept it as part of our culture.

On the government's end, we need more opportunities for families such as parks and recreation that provide healthy outlets for entertainment and enjoyment. Better-paying jobs would also help keep some from turning to drug use to deal with the hardships they're facing in their lives.

If someone has been arrested before but is truly trying to get back on their feet, they need a place that will employ them and give them an opportunity to be self-sustainable.

We could use our churches to continue to step up and offer counseling services for those battling addiction. Religion may not be everyone's cup of tea, but if you've ever had a friend or a relative who was fighting addiction, you know it takes something spiritual-like to help stop the destruction.

It's a mess and though we're no different than many other communities in Kentucky, the increase in drug use is troubling and doesn't appear to be slowing down. Hopefully, if we put our heads together and provide the necessary resources to combat the disease, we can turn the trend of drug abuse and the criminality that goes with it in the right direction.

Suddeath is the editor of the Glasgow Daily Times. His column appears in the Thursday edition and at various times throughout the week. Reach him at 270-678-5171, or by email at dsuddeath@glasgowdailytimes.com. Follow him on Twitter @DsuddeathGDT.