Walker County Sheriff Nick Smith said Friday he participated in a Substance Abuse Recovery Listening Session held Wednesday at Northwest Shoals Community College in Muscle Shoals.
The event was chaired by U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt and Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Federal Co-Chair Tim Thomas and attended by nearly 100 community leaders in the area.
According to the ARC, the common themes from the discussion was a need to better coordinate, build, and expand services to help people maintain long-term recovery and get back into the workforce.
The Times-Daily in Florence quoted Thomas as saying the ARC is traveling to various locations throughout the region and hosting similar sessions. Officials are collecting information and suggestions they hope will provide ideas and techniques for helping addicts return to the workforce and live drug-free lives
Smith said the meeting featured a public event and a private round-table discussion, where he discussed what the Cordova Police Department had done while he was there and what is being done at the Sheriff's Office with the Mercy Project, as well as efforts to work with the Walker County Community Action Agency to help inmates build resumes and get jobs.
He said participants were impressed with his points, and William Babington, chief of the Law Enforcement and Safety Division of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, told Smith he would like to check out the local programs and let Walker County be a model for the rest of the state.
According to the TimesDaily, David Jones, executive director of Capstone Rural Health Center, said investing in treatment can yield dividends from those helped.
"When they're gainfully employed they can pay restitution," Jones told the newspaper. "They can pay child support. They can pay income tax. Our law enforcement is desperate to get folks, before they become incarcerated, to get help."
Several in attendance said the legal system can hamper recovery efforts at times by adding fines and jail time to an addict who already is in a desperate situation, the TimesDaily reported.
"If you're poor and in a rehab situation, everything kind of wraps you up in a tight sleeping bag and you can't get out," Jones said.