Tag Archives: heroin

Waller Can’t Defend Pay Lawsuit, PDMP

17 May

Jefferson County Executive Ken Waller has always had difficulty providing a persuasive argument for his preferred policies, instead usually resorting to “because it is best and those who oppose me are dumbheads.” But he had even more difficulty giving a sufficient explanation to Fox 2’s Elliott Davis as to why he’s suing JeffCo taxpayers to get more salary for himself:

Oh, no, you see, it isn’t about getting more money in his pocket! He just wants clarification from the judge! If the judge decides I need more money, what can I do? *chuckles* If that’s the case, then Waller should come out right now and say that he will refuse to accept any extra money if he wins his lawsuit. I mean, if all he wants is a legal clarification, that should be an easy pledge to make and it would put people’s minds at ease that this isn’t about personal enrichment. We’ll be waiting.

PDMP Fails

The proposal for JeffCo to join a multi-county prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) to fight opioid abuse failed at the April 24 council meeting by a 4-3 vote, according to the Leader. The roll call was:

  • Don Bickowski – no
  • Renee Reuter – no
  • Bob Boyer – no
  • Charles Groeteke – no
  • Jim Kasten – yes
  • Dan Stallman – yes
  • Jim Terry – yes

Waller moped afterwards:

“It’s sad that people just don’t do the right thing, and that (allowing the county to join the database) was the right thing to do. The bottom line is that it didn’t pass, and more people are going to die and they’re not going to do anything about it.”

This was the extent of his argument for this bill, along with his single-minded focus on PDMP instead of a multi-pronged approach to the opioid/heroin problem, as was advocated by Boyer. No data, no facts, just demonizing. Waller also suggested he would go to Jefferson City to lobby for a statewide PDMP (which did not pass, but could come up in a special session). I doubt he would win over any votes there, either.

Heroin and Foster Care in Jefferson County

4 Mar

A number of recent news articles have appeared recently on the area’s heroin/opioid epidemic and specifically how it impacts the foster care system. Jefferson County in particular is affected by the combination of heroin use and a lack of foster homes. According to a KSDK report, there are 350 children in foster care in the county that can’t be placed with family members, but only 60 foster homes.

A recent Post-Dispatch article, accompanied by a stark front-page photo of two addicts shooting up in their kitchen, provided this chart of local heroin death rates:

heroin-rates

While STL City has far and away the worst problem, Jefferson and Franklin have the next highest rates among area counties.

Another P-D article highlighted the effects of heroin on the foster system in the region:

“We are in desperate need of more foster parents for the first time in a decade and a half,” said Melanie Scheetz, executive director of the Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition of St. Louis. “We need them for both newborns and older children.”

This article states that the number of JeffCo kids in foster care has increased by 20 percent in the past five years, while STL City and County have gone up by about 30 percent.

This graphic, also from the P-D, shows birth rates by county of children with opioid withdrawal symptoms:heroin-births

JeffCo is not in the top ten in the state in this statistic, and our 8.68 per 1,000 rate is lower than what is seen in Franklin, Washington, and St. Francois Counties, but higher than Ste. Genevieve and St. Louis Counties.

Local Response

Judge Darrell Missey, who sees foster care trends firsthand in his courtroom, helped start a group called Fostering Hope, and he is highlighted in this KSDK news report (definitely watch the video). This group helps spread the word about the need for more foster parents and lets churches and other groups know what they can do to help.

missey

Jefferson County Judge Darrell Missey

First Baptist Church in Arnold has started a One Less Orphan ministry. The goals of this program are to recruit, train, and support foster and adoptive parents.

The Jefferson County Foster Children’s Fund helps support foster children and parents by providing events and donations.

JeffCo Mom Convicted for Hitting Heroin Dealer

2 May

In a case that came up in the race for sheriff last year, Imperial mom Sherrie Gavan was convicted last week of 3rd-degree misdemeanor assault for hitting her addicted son’s alleged heroin dealer with a baseball bat. She faces up to a year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000, and will be sentenced June 4th.

It’s really hard for me to see the sense in the prosecution or conviction here (and online commenters at the Post-Dispatch and, to a lesser extent, RFT agree). Sure, hitting someone is against the law. But these details hardly cry out to me for justice:

[Gavan] said Loyd [the dealer/”facilitator”] and another man came into the restaurant, and Klaeton told his mother that Loyd was his drug “facilitator.”

Loyd and the other man left, and Sherrie Gavan followed them in her Jeep. Eventually both parked at Loyd’s residence in Imperial, where a confrontation took place.

What began as a heated discussion, with Gavan warning Loyd to stay away from her son, escalated and she struck Loyd with a bat she took from her vehicle.

She said she struck him because she feared Loyd was about to attack her.

Goldstein said Gavan, at 4-foot-11, hardly intimidated Loyd, who Goldstein described as 5-foot-9, 195 pounds.

“She was scared, terrified,” Goldstein said. “He (Loyd) said he was never afraid of her. He said he was never hurt.”

Loyd waited three hours to contact police after being struck on his left forearm. Also, he declined to be taken for medical treatment when police asked if he needed it, Goldstein asserted.

Are Jefferson County prosecutors bored? A very small woman tapped a much bigger man on the arm, and he’s some sort of victim? The prosecutors are making “the law is the law” and “go through proper channels” arguments:

[Prosecutor Jacob] Costello said the jury needed to remember that Gavan took matters into her own hands instead of going through the authorities.

“She made the choice to pull out the baseball bat,” Costello said.

This is reminiscent of the JeffCo sheriff’s comments in March of last year:

Jefferson County Sheriff Oliver “Glenn” Boyer said his office was compelled to turn the case over to the prosecuting attorney.

“How can we as law enforcement turn our backs on someone who has been assaulted?” he said. “I understand her intentions, but we have laws.”

Indeed, we need justice for this poor, poor man.

Gavan has no regrets, even though she declined a plea bargain:

Throughout the trial, Gavan said she fought the charges rather than plead guilty to help shine a spotlight on the problem of heroin.

“I thought it was important to get the story out,” she said.

And despite the conviction, she said, she achieved what she wanted by confronting Loyd. Loyd has not contacted her son since, and Clayton has been clean for more than a year.

“My son is alive,” she said. “That’s all that matters. … I will take my life over his any day.”

I’m a little bit surprised the jury came back with this verdict, and in only two hours. A few factors, I’m sure, were in play. First, deliberations started at 6 pm after a two-day trial, so people probably wanted to go home; second, the jury was swayed by the “law is the law” argument; and third, nobody on the panel had the passion to argue for a nullification. Such a move, while possible, of course never comes up during a trial, and it would require someone (more likely at least a couple of people) who felt strongly about this idea to argue for an acquittal. Even if a person or two felt this way, most people are unlikely to mount a protracted 12 Angry Men-style campaign against a majority of the jury over a misdemeanor charge. Easier to vote guilty and assume (hope?) the judge goes easy at sentencing.

I just hope that Gavan’s son doesn’t fall off the wagon (he’s been clean for 14 months) while Gavan sits in a jail cell. If he does, and then commits a crime to pay for drugs, will this have all been worth it to stamp out a very minor case of vigilantism?

Drugs, Budgets, and the Sheriff’s Office

7 Jul

A Post-Dispatch article (that may or may not have been ripped off by officer.com) discusses some problem-solving at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s and Prosecutor’s Offices. A backup at state and county crime labs makes it hard to charge drug offenders, so the county has adapted:

Smaller counties, such as Jefferson County, use the Missouri Highway Patrol lab, where the wait is about four to six months, said Cpl. Tim Whitney of the county Sheriff’s Department.

Another tool has proved helpful in Jefferson County. Prosecutors rely on field test kits, which change colors when narcotics are detected on a scene, to charge drug suspects while lab results are pending.

Narcotics detectives in Jefferson County get about 100 tests in a box for about $100 and have never had conflicting results with lab tests, Whitney said.

“Especially with the repeat customer, they are really helpful in preventing them from hurting themselves or others,” he said.

Jefferson County Prosecutor Forrest Wegge began using the kits as probable cause about five years ago. Charging offenders instead of waiting for lab results helps get offenders into rehabilitation or drug courts sooner, Wegge said.

This is another example of the county law enforcement apparatus doing a lot with a little. Unfortunately, the little they have is about to get smaller:

Funding cuts mean that the county’s busy drug task force is being reduced from 10 members to seven or eight.

A couple of grants are expiring, so manpower at the task force is being cut. Here’s why it hurts:

The task force was on pace to investigate 400 meth labs this year in Jefferson County, “which is unprecedented,” Whitney added. The previous record was 314 labs in 2004.

Meanwhile, eight deaths in Jefferson County this year are being investigated as heroin-related.

Whitney said that, on a typical day, the group’s tip line gets 10 to 20 tips. They usually try to follow up on those tips within a day or two because the 10-person task force could run in two teams to check out reports of a meth lab, for example. Now, response time will be slower because they won’t have two teams, he said. Investigators like to work in teams with no fewer than four members each.

Now I’m not a big drug warrior. Perhaps Jefferson County could do like Chicago and issue citations, not arrests, for marijuana possession. That would free up officers and jail space, and maybe increase revenues to the county, while allowing greater focus to be placed on the hard drugs.

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