Sequim Gazette staff
A $250,000 federal grant will help the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office tackle prescription drug and heroin abuse on the North Olympic Peninsula.
Sheriff Bill Benedict said he applied for the Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services program grant to fund two deputy positions.
“It’s under community policing so you have to have a problem you’re going to solve with the officers,” he said.
The problem he wants to tackle is prescription painkiller and heroin abuse. Clallam County leads the state in per capita deaths for opiate drug overdoses, which includes prescription opiates and heroin, and has had that distinction three years running, he said.
The grant, which begins in October, will keep a detective already assigned to the Olympic Peninsula Narcotics Enforcement Team on staff and add another. Benedict said they will start looking at candidates for the new deputy position soon.
OPNET will work with a medication abuse work group and other community groups to take a multi-faceted approach to the problem, he said.
“We’re going to look at ways where if we collaborate maybe we can target our enforcement so we can get more bang for our buck,” he said.
Last year, two deputy positions were cut due to budget shortfalls. Though an agreement reached with the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe allowed two positions to be continued, the department still was down one position from four years ago, Benedict said.
“That (grant) will bring us back up to where we were four years ago,” he said.
Statewide, eight law enforcement agencies were awarded a total of $6.9 million in COPS hiring grants to hire, rehire or retain a total of 30 law enforcement officers, said Janeen Heath, state press secretary for Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.
Cantwell is a long-time advocate for the COPS program and has fought to increase support for its grants, Heath said.