City, county hoping federal HIDTA program can provide funding against meth use

March 13, 2020 | 12:10 am

Updated March 12, 2020 | 8:16 pm

City and county leaders are working to make Daviess County a High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) in response to the countywide methamphetamine crisis. Mayor Tom Watson said being designated as a HIDTA could bring in federal funding that is much needed to combat the city and county’s issues with increased meth use.

The HIDTA program was created by Congress with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 and provides assistance to Federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug-trafficking regions of the United States.

Watson said The Alliance for a Drug-Free Owensboro-Daviess County had been helpful in spreading the message about the area’s meth problems and seeking out grants that could assist the city and county with combating the problem.

“We do a pretty good job with the drug issues here, but this will really help a lot,” Watson said.

The application process is a bit extensive, and Watson said an application sent into the HIDTA program didn’t make the cut two years ago, in large part because the application covered multiple counties, including Daviess. This time, the HIDTA application will only involve Daviess County.

Watson said he called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office to better understand how Daviess County could become a HIDTA and, four days later, a presentation regarding the ins and outs of the program was held at City Hall.

Those who attended included city and county leaders, United States Attorney Russell Coleman, the FBI, Kentucky State Police, the Daviess County Sheriff’s Office and Owensboro Police Department. Watson said the presentation was very well received.

“They were very complimentary about the last petition we sent them,” Watson said. “But they recommended we stick with one [county] this time.”

A lot of work will go into the application process, including a study of Owensboro and Daviess County and drug-trafficking statistics from law enforcement agencies. Whether this application will be accepted depends on a lot of aspects, including population and law enforcement’s ability to protect its citizens while also combating the drug issues.

Though the application deadline has already passed for 2020, Watson said they plan to submit their newest application in Jan. 2021.

“That gives us plenty of time to get a really good petition done and get all the stats together,” he said. “We’ve got a chance, and I see no reason not to proceed with it.”

It’ll be interesting, Watson said, to see how HIDTA officials respond to Daviess County’s application, as the majority of the applications sent in describe the opioid crisis affecting different municipalities. To become a HIDTA for a meth crisis is somewhat rare, but Watson said he has high hopes that the situation will be taken just as seriously by those in charge of choosing.

Some of the other programs HIDTA funding can help with include drug rehabilitation, Drug Court and families of meth users.

“Now we have opioids here too, but the fact that we have this amount of meth, a lot of it coming across the border into our community, makes it a little different because most of eastern Kentucky has opioid problems,” he said. “But meth is everywhere here. It’s not just in one portion of our community. It’s all over the place.”

March 13, 2020 | 12:10 am

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