One of the ways the local community is trying to solve jail overcrowding is by keeping people out of jail in the first place.

The majority of people housed in Henry County Jail are there, in one way or another, because of drugs or alcohol.

Henry County Commissioner Kim Cronk is facilitating talks to create a new Henry County Detention and Treatment facility to replace the current jail.

Within that task force, a group of local citizens is working on alternatives to incarceration. They are making sure substance abuse treatment stays part of that conversation.

Jerry Cash is leading that discussion.

“We’ve got a couple approaches,” Cash said. “One approach could be that within the justice facility itself, you could have treatment activities going on... The other approach is that outside the justice facility, we need the services and the linkages to other groups that people can be diverted to instead of going to jail.”

Cash’s group is compiling an inventory of all the drug and alcohol treatment resources that are available in Henry County.

Another question they are exploring is whether or not Henry County will try tackling substance abuse on its own.

Cash said communities in East Central Indiana could band together and offer a regional solution.

Local businesses also need to be part of the solution, Cash said.

“People are locked out of the workforce because of drug issues...If employers help with this process, they might be developing a workforce that’s more likely to pass their drug screens,” Cash said.

The business community could help promote drug treatment, for example, by giving job opportunities to people who have successfully complete recovery programs.

Cash said addressing the drug problem in Henry County not only reduces the size and cost of building a correctional facility, it makes the base of the people in the community more employable and increases revenue streams in the community.

At the same time, if families are plagued by drug problems, they may become less dependent on social-assistance programs.

Fighting the battle from all sides

As part of the HOPE Initiative, Cash was talking about substance abuse issues even before Cronk formed the county task force.

Discussions from those HOPE meetings helped for the basis of the new LIVE Coalition to combat the impacts that substance abuse is having on the community.

The LIVE Coalition reaches out to medical professionals, law enforcement officers, mental health counselors and recovering addicts to find solutions.

David Huckeby recently started attending the LIVE meetings.

Huckeby has been through the Henry County Jail and the New Castle Correctional Facility because of drugs. He was also in the Plainfield Short Term Offenders Program (STOP).

Huckeby went through rehabilitation programs while in prison and is now involved with Brianna's Hope here in New Castle.

Since he got out of prison in May 2015, Huckeby has been offering his personal experiences as guidance to other drug offenders.

“The community needs to take addiction seriously,” Huckeby said.

Huckeby hopes Henry County’s new detention facility will include in-house treatment services. He would also like to see mental healthcare offered to inmates.

“We need to have a facility where we can streamline that,” Huckeby said. “A lot of underlying mental health issues can cause addictions.”

Huckeby likes the idea of having a list of local treatment and support options that people struggling with addiction can turn to.

“They just need a little guidance,” he said. “They don’t have that knowledge of where they can get help.”

Huckeby said the biggest help would be if offenders could start getting treatment as soon as they were incarcerated in the Henry County facility.

When Huckeby was in jail, the drug treatment options were only available to people serving at least 12 months. That means Huckeby could not take part in the program, even if he wanted to.

“New Castle needs to have more of a recovery environment,” Huckeby said.

More options needed in Henry County

Huckeby’s nephew, Matthew Schetgen, also struggles with drug abuse. Schetgen contributed to this article by phone from a drug treatment facility in Indianapolis, because there are no local options. 

“I don’t belong here (in Indianapolis),” Schetgen said. “We should have a treatment facility in New Castle.”

Schetgen started abusing pain killers after hurting his back as a teenager. He wishes drug treatment programs had been available back then. 

At the same time, Schetgen hopes early intervention will keep young people from ending up in secure facilities.

“We don’t want the youth of tomorrow feeling institutionalized,” he said.

Schetgen said he is joining the LIVE Coalition with Huckeby to try bringing professional treatment centers to Henry County that will offer professional help.

“We’re both here because a lot of these kids have a future ahead of them, but they don’t realize it,” he said.

© Copyright 2019, The Courier-Times, New Castle, IN.