WINFIELD, W.Va. -- Facing the largest jail bill the county has ever seen, Putnam County commissioners voted Tuesday to contract with a nonprofit group to treat what the county prosecutor sees as the primary problem -- drug addiction.
"The frustration is that, if we can't provide treatment for them, we're going to end up recycling people with addiction in our jails and in our prison system," Prosecuting Attorney Mark Sorsaia said Tuesday.
The commission will sponsor two beds for Putnam County residents at The Healing Place of Huntington, a long-term residential treatment facility for men in neighboring Cabell County.
Scott Adkins, a Teays Valley resident and the new executive director of the Healing Place, said the facility encourages accountability and family responsibility. Founded in 2011, the program has graduated 65 men, and more than 45 have been completely sober one year post-treatment, he said.
"We do a lot of life skills training, so that men learn to be good dads and to be good husbands. We do job placement activities, we work with the Workforce Investment Board in the regions from which they come," Adkins said. "We try to treat the whole person; we don't want to send them back to the same environment without any hope or skills."
The number of felony prosecutions in Putnam County has risen roughly 20 percent since 2010, and the county's juvenile prosecutions are up 25 percent, Sorsaia told the Gazette in July. The jail bill has also steadily risen, from $1.1 million two years ago to $1.4 million last year, and now, to $1.7 million.
According to Sorsaia, the vast majority of the cases he prosecutes are drug-related. At the unveiling of the Putnam County Sheriff's Department prescription drug drop box in October, Sheriff Steve Deweese estimated roughly 85 percent of the crimes committed in the county were drug-related.
"It's obvious to me that this 'phenomenon' with the jail bill is driven by addiction," Sorsaia said. "We are struggling with it every day."
Sorsaia has already held a meeting with one church in Teays Valley and said he intends to contact the Teays Valley Ministerial Association and other churches to explore the possibility of sponsoring additional beds through private partnership. It costs $32.50 per day to pay for one participant, and the total cost to the county for sponsoring two for a year will amount to $23,600.
"I know from personal experience and as a prosecutor how much anguish and frustration there is in our community with addiction," he said. "Unfortunately, almost every family is touched by addiction."