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Carteret Co. Sheriff's Office seeking alternatives to jail for drug arrests

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BEAUFORT, Carteret County - The opioid problem continues to get worse and places like the Carteret County Jail are having problems with the amount of drug-arrest suspects they have to deal with.

The opioid overdose death rate in North Carolina rose 73 percent from 2005-2015. While many who don't die are arrested and end up in jail, Sheriff Asa Buck would like to see other methods to help these people.

"People talk about, you know, people should be diverted," Buck said. "If I had somewhere to divert them to, I would."

Holly Simmons was able to get help but not before serving jail time. She had issues with prescribed Xanax for back pains. The habit soon turned into an addiction, then crimes to feed her addiction. She eventually landed in the Carteret County Jail.

"Nobody wants to be an addict, it's not a desire. Simmons said. "I was getting pain pills, Xanax, diet pills."

While her jail time served as a wake-up call, that's not always the case. Jails are starting to feel the pinch. Nearly 60 percent of inmates at the Carteret County Jail have drug-related charges. That brings withdraws and mental health issues. Buck said without outside help, resources in the county are limited.

"We are not drug counselors, we are not mental health counselors," Buck said. "We are law enforcement and a jail."

Buck said they will continue to work with people like Simmons who are willing to get help. He also hopes access to resources will get better.

While not everyone in the Carteret County Jail gets the help they need, Simmons did. Thanks to her supportive mother, it took a year at a program in Wisconsin for her to get clean. Five years later, she's now working with her mother on a new challenge as a real estate agent.

"I'm a provisional broker now, so everything I do I have to do right side by side her," Simmons said.

Simmons has advice for anyone who might be in the same situation she was in years ago.

"Just seek help and stick with it," Simmons said. "It's a battle and it's well worth it at the end."

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