Benton County Prosecutor sheds light on drug addiction recovery

The office has joined forces with a local coalition to help offenders recover from the clutches of drug addiction
Benton Co. Jail

In collaboration with several community members, the Benton County Prosecutor’s Office wants others to know about Addiction Recovery Awareness Month.

Prosecutor Andy Miller said hundreds of drug-related offenders cycle through the county jail and it costs a lot of money. So, Miller and his team came up with a solution: the drug court’s jail diversion program that helps addicted offenders receive recovery treatment.

“The one thing I have noticed over the years is if somebody stops committing crimes it’s because they have successfully conquered an addition issue and then we don’t see them any more,” Miller said.

The program is aimed at treating the root causes of addiction in these men and women who have pending pleas.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Megan Kilgore is a part of the team who assess and decides if an offender is eligible for the program.

“We want them to come out of our program not just sober but actively in recovery, actively working in a program, having a network of sober support in the community, supporting themselves, supporting their families,” Kilgore said.

During treatment, offenders must prove they are working to better themselves. Kilgore said this includes sobriety, community service, education, and meeting with a network of support. If the person can adhere to the rules, they will graduate from the program. Kilgore said there’s a good incentive to complete it: dropped charges.

“We want them to learn something from it, to have some growth come out of it, we want our people to be successful,” she added.

The prosecutor’s office has gained support from many community entities like the Benton Franklin Recovery Coalition; a network of area professionals who want to stop drug addiction and help other recover.

“They’ve been very helpful because one thing that happens is a revolving door situation, when people are arrested for a petty crime because they are high,” President Michele Gerber said.

Gerber lost her son to addiction six years ago. That tragedy led her to start the coalition in 2018 and ever since, she’s worked to prevent more drug-related deaths.

“This happened to my family and what I saw was that addicted people are failed by the system in so many ways, even when they have the ability to pay or their family does, the system does not help them,” Gerber said.

The leader believes drug offenders need serious attention from professionals and support groups, not a jail cell. With people like Andy Miller and Megan Kilgore, in addition to all of the coalition, she hopes there are many more graduations to come.

“I do this work in honor of my son, for me it’s a labor of love.”

To learn more about the Benton Franklin Recovery Coalition, visit their Facebook page.