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Kenton Co. Gives Prosecutor's Office $10,000 for Creative Approach to Fighting Heroin

Kenton County Commonwealth Attorney Rob Sanders came to the Kenton County Fiscal Court on Tuesday night to ask for $10,000 to help fund a program called HEART, an acronym for Heroin Expedited Addiction Recovery Treatment.

Sanders was joined by attorney Burr Travis, who has been volunteering in the Commonwealth's Attorney office and helped create the special program that The River City News profiled in April, as well as other organizations to explain the benefits of the proposal.

Under the HEART plan, inmates in the Kenton County Detention Center for possession-only charges, could be eligible for drug addiction treatment in lieu of spending so many days behind bars without treatment. According to Sanders's presentation,  one person can be jailed for anywhere from 129 to 291 days while awaiting court decisions on their conviction and sentencing, and the HEART program offers an assessment by a qualified individual as to what level the person's addiction is right after their arraignment and preliminary hearing in district court.

The inmate would then be in treatment as the case weaves through the legal system, reducing the number of days spent behind bars without treatment.

This would represent a savings in days in jail of approximately 124 to 281 days, at $42.45 per person per day, or roughly $5,200 to $11,900 per inmate. The treatment options would be at North Key, Transitions, Drug Court and privately funded providers if the inmate has insurance or funds.

"This program would be offered to all offenders caught in possession of a controlled substance," said Sanders. "Heroin is the main problem in Kenton County these days. The goal is to give every heroin addict the opportunity to improve their own outcome before the addict faces a judge for final sentencing."

He also mentioned that a lot of addicts die before they get through the court process, and this program tries to shorten the process for the addicts and get them the help they need as soon as possible.

Judge­/Executive Kris Knochelmann and the Fiscal Court voted to give the program the money to fund the assessments. The $10,000 help from the fiscal court will fund HEART for approximately six months at a minimum.

"This program saves money," said Sanders. "It will pay for itself in no time."

Travis has been working since February 1 on the program and while the county will see financial benefits in savings, Sanders said the main advantage is that drug addicts are given a chance to become productive citizens. "It will give every defendant a chance to help themselves physically with drug addiction issues and legally when they face a judge for sentencing," Sanders said. 

Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, contributor (Michael Monks, editor & publisher, contributed to this report)

Photo: Rob Sanders presents to Kenton Co. Fiscal Court on Tuesday (RCN)