Mercer. Co. adopts program to send drug criminals to rehab inste - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

Mercer. Co. adopts program to send drug criminals to rehab instead of jail

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MERCER COUNTY, WV (WVVA) -

A partnership between Southern Highlands Community Mental Health Center and the Mercer County Sheriff's Department allows deputies to refer criminals for help at the time of the crime.

Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion or LEAD is a program set out to give victims of drug abuse a chance to get help treatment instead of being arrested.

Deputies contact Southern Highlands with potential patients while one scene of a potential arrest.

Chief Deputy Joe Parks says the goal is to get the abusers into treatment and prevent re-offenses. 

"Southern Regional Jail for Mercer County is a revolving door.," Parks said. "We see the same people over and over and it's a reoccurring problem with the underlying thing being drug abuse. Until we start catching them at a lower level, we're going to lose."

Coordinator for Community Engagement and Crisis Services Jamie Styons is the point of contact for the deputies to reach at Southern Highlands.

"A lot of times we get people that come in that are products of the system, unfortunately." Styons said. "They've been to jail so many times."

Styons says the LEAD program is on a volunteer basis, and it's about giving the users a better option than prison.

"They are given that choice whether to face the criminal consequences to their acts or getting the treatment that can stop this constant repeat," he said.

Styons says they've already had a successful case. 

"We were able to get her in. I actually walked her into the facility myself," he said. "And after she completed our facility, she went into long term treatment."

Chief Deputy Parks says most times, drug criminals want to get help.

"I've never heard so many thank yous in two weeks in my life, so that meant a lot to me."

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