Two bills that originated from local conversations about recovery efforts are in committee awaiting hearings at the Statehouse.
Both proposals were authored by Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford.
The first, Senate Bill 110, focuses on adding a sentencing enhancement to those who are caught dealing drugs within 500 feet of a recovery center or support group.
Senate Bill 111 provides grant opportunities for community- and faith-based substance abuse programs. It appropriates $100,000 annually to the community- and faith-based substance abuse grant programs.
The bill also provides $50,000 annually to the community- and faith-based substance abuse transportation assistance grant program.
Since 2019 is a budget year, the appropriations would be included in the state’s new two-year budget.
The bills, Koch said, came from conversations he had with Scott Salm and Jack Voigtschild regarding the recovery efforts they help with in Lawrence County.
“If it’s affecting them right here in Lawrence County, then it’s likely affecting other like-minded entities across the state,” Koch said.
Salm, associate pastor at the Bedford Free Methodist Church, directs 630 Recovery Place, which Salm says exists to provide relevant relationships, real help and resources for those seeking support or who are in recovery. As a part of that, the organization follows curriculum from Celebrate Recovery — a Christ-centered, 12-step program.
He pitched the idea for SB 110 to Koch as a way to provide a “safe place” for addicts.
“... We talk about recovery and having a safe place to go. We want to make all recovery places safe,” Salm said. “I’m not in law enforcement. For me, it’s not about law enforcement, but in my mind, we protect our schools, so why can’t we (add) recovery places and treatment centers?”
The goal of the bill, Koch said, is to stop the predatory drug dealing that takes place in the parking lots of recovery centers.
“Sometimes the hardest stretch for an addict is between the parking lot and the door,” Koch said. “The parking lot is a place where dealers can find a vulnerable population.”
Salm points to the John Townsend quote, “Loving people is doing what’s best for them.”
“I think this is what is best for them,” Salm said. “We want to send a message to those in recovery meetings that we care about providing them a safe place to recover and put forward a danger of elevated charges to those who would victimize the ones at the meeting sites.”
Koch said the grant funding, as found in SB 111, is aimed at filling a gap in society’s efforts to curb addiction.
“There is no state funding available to faith-based recovery efforts, and I find that unfortunate because faith-based recovery efforts generally have a more long-term success rate because you’re not just changing habits, but changing hearts,” the senator said.
And the transportation part of the bill, Salm said, would help many addicts overcome one of the many hurdles they face.
“All of us in the recovery community are just trying to help people any way we can,” Salm said.