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By Erin Smith

Bladen County officials were notified on Wednesday they were approved for a $50,000 grant from Eastpointe MCO for a jail diversion program. The funding will be for one year.

Bladen County Commissioner Charles Ray Peterson said, “This all came about from our opioid meetings. It’s going to do so much to help people who are addicted.”

The county plans to partner with Southeastern Carolina Crossroads and Teen Challenge when it opens. Both programs are faith-based and provide addiction treatment. Southeastern Carolina Crossroads recently extended their program to a 60 day program for men and Teen Challenge, which hopes to have their facility in Ammon open soon, is a 14 month program for women.

Southeastern Carolina Crossroads Interim Director Kincy Barrow said, “I’m very grateful for the people involved in that. They recognize the need is out there.”

He added  that the partnership created demonstrates the leaders in our county are putting forth the effort to see that those who are in need get the help they need.

Richard Allen with the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office explained how the program will work. Allen said anyone with non-violent drug-related charges will be offered an opportunity to receive counseling through Celebrate Recovery while in jail. If they are successful with Celebrate Recovery, then they will be offered an opportunity through the court to continue their treatment with either Southeastern Carolina Crossroads for the men or Teen Challenge for women. The service will be paid for by the county through the jail diversion program.

Allen said if there are any issues while they are in long-term treatment, if they walk away, or if they fail for any reason to complete the program, they are brought back to court. The court will have make a decision regarding the individual returning to jail.

Sheriff McVicker and Allen recently conducted a meeting in the female pod at the jail and explained the program. So far, 10 women have expressed an interest in receiving treatment.

“I think it is wonderful,” said Bladen County Sheriff Jim McVicker. “Richard (Allen) has been very involved in this.”

Sheriff McVicker said the jail diversion program will be a benefit to the county, it will better for the jail, and it will be better for the people.

“I’m amazed at the interest we’ve gotten,” said Sheriff McVicker of the program.

Sheriff McVicker emphasized that the Sheriff’s Office will not simply arrest someone in order for them to receive treatment. Richard Allen emphasized if someone is put into jail for a drug offense and they are not violent, they will be offered the opportunity for counseling and if they are not in jail, they can contact Allen at the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office for information on how they can get help.

Allen said he has also been asked to make a presentation regarding the Bladen County Opioid Task Force and its work for Congressman David Rouzer. He explained Congressman Rouzer is attempting to start a similar effort in the 7th Congressional District.

Allen also said another program being offered is a series of Community Meetings to discuss and distribute medicine lock boxes, discuss the jail diversion program, as well as offering information to parents and grandparents. He said each meeting will offer those in attendance the opportunity to ask questions. The goal is to have these meetings in every small community throughout the county. The meetings can take place in a community building, fire departments, or houses of worship. To schedule a community meeting in your area, contact Richard Allen at the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office by calling 910-862-6960.