MURRAY — Since presiding over Kentucky’s 42nd Judicial Circuit that serves Calloway and Marshall counties, James T. Jameson has been preaching to anyone who will listen as to the need of at least one in-patient substance abuse treatment center in the circuit.
Jameson is actually aiming for two — one for men, another for women — with one located in each of the two counties. He would like for both centers to house 100 patients apiece.
He said he wants them yesterday. After all, he is the judge of two counties, where 96 percent of the cases he supervises are drug-related.
“The number of people who probably need it is much larger. Two hundred? That’s just a small dent,” Jameson said Tuesday, adding that a group that might be able to help do something about this matter is starting to get active. This is the 42nd’s Community Corrections Advisory Board, which is designed to deal with anything related to the criminal corrections system and now has at least two dozen members looking into issues.
The first one is already receiving action, and that is changing the ankle-monitor program for defendants accused of non-violent offenses. However, always looming is the pursuit of in-patient rehab centers, and Jameson said he learned something not too long ago that makes such a group viable.
“I testified in February before the state House Judiciary Committee on a bill dealing with bond conditions for defendants, and one of the big reasons I went up there was to talk to the legislators and tell them that we need resources (to deal with the problem),” he said. “Yes, it would be nice to let people out of jail and save money, but right now, it’s a lose-lose. You let them out, well you’re creating a danger to the public. You keep them in, then you’re costing taxpayers a lot of money per day.
“It got me thinking. We’re going to have to create our own resources, and already (the board) is looking at finding grants and looking for ways to raise money to fund things we need. The good news is these people seem very committed, and they’re going to stay at this for a long time.”
An example of resources being created, Jameson said, is the Riverwoods Recovery Program in Benton and Murray, which was formed from the Riverwoods Church in Benton. Since forming four years ago, Riverwoods has routinely had 90 to 100 clients in that program; last year, 24 from the two counties graduated.
Grace and Mercy, which Murray native Kori Tabers said has made a huge difference in her recovery from 15 years of substance abuse, formed in the past few years. It is a residential recovery program, similar in makeup to another women’s program, Ladies Living Free in Paducah. It is not, however, for in-patient treatment.
“What we’re looking to do is more intensive. Don’t get me wrong, the other programs seem to be doing a fine job and they need to be applauded for what they’re doing,” Jameson said, noting that, to his knowledge, none of the area outpatient programs have a 100 percent success rate. “No, they don’t all make it, and when they don’t, that’s a signal that we need a higher level of care available in this area. Now, having these centers in our counties is still not going to solve the whole problem, but in my view, it would be the most significant step taken in many years in this area.”
The last in-patient facility in the Purchase Area was Goodman Hill Hospital in Paducah, but it closed after about 10 years of service in the 1990s. That facility now comprises the central office of the McCracken County School District. The nearest such facility is now in Owensboro or Bowling Green.
“People say, ‘Oh, we have drug court. That’s good enough, right?’ No, because you only have room for 15 in that. So, no, drug court cannot handle that,” he said. “If you think about 100 patients each, that seems like a lot. We’d fill it overnight.”
“It would be great if something like this could happen here,” said Kori’s mother, Jan. “It is definitely needed around here, and I can vouch for that because of what I’ve had go through and what I’ve had to watch for so long. There aren’t that many options around here, and that’s a lot of the problem. If something was close by, I would think that a lot of people could be helped who are otherwise not seeking treatment because of how far away it is.”
Jameson said early treatment could prevent tragedy.
“It affects everybody, one way or another,” he said of the number of cases he has involving petty offenses like theft. “Then you have the situations where someone is driving a 2,500-pound car and basically turning it into an unguided missile.
“The biggest thing when I ran for this office was that I didn’t want to see this area (he was born and raised in Marshall County) changed, due to the drug problem. I’ve seen that up close (in the Cincinnati, Ohio suburb of Kenton County, where he was a public defender for a few years). I don’t want that coming here. It was nothing to drive down the street and see someone passed out on a sidewalk with a needle in their arm.
“No one wants to see that.”