By Michelle Wagner | Outer Banks Voice on February 17, 2021
During its Feb. 16 meeting, the Dare County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved funding for an additional Sheriff’s Deputy position to give the department additional manpower to be able to transport people with substance abuse problems to treatment facilities during emergency situations.
In his presentation to the commissioners, Dare County Manager Bobby Outten described the new position as an important intervention tool that can help reach those dealing with significant substance abuse issues at a crucial moment in that battle.
Outten told the commissioners that the Sheriff’s Office already provides those who are in police custody with transportation to such facilities as part of its budget. But, he added, there are about 100 instances each year in which individuals with substance use disorders who are not in custody need transportation to treatment facilities after either being admitted to the Outer Banks Hospital or finding themselves in a crisis situation.
Those incidents typically occur in the middle of the night and everyone is scrambling at 2 a.m. to get a person to treatment, Outten explained, noting that county social workers are not able to transport patients due to safety concerns.
As a result, “Often [the transport] just doesn’t occur…and when that person who is not in custody is in the hospital, seeking treatment, that is the time to act,” he said. Once patients leave the hospital and are out of immediate crisis, the incentive to get treatment is often gone, he added.
The cost of funding an additional deputy position, Outten noted, includes roughly $18,000 to outfit the officer with necessary equipment and $66,000 for salary and benefits. Some of that funding would come from untapped money in the substance abuse and recovery court fund to cover the cost for this budget cycle. Next year, the county manager noted, the position would be part of the Sheriff’s budget.
At that time, the substance abuse and recovery court found would be replenished for the borrowed money.
Noting it was a win-win situation for the county and the Sheriff’s Office, Outten said that it helps add manpower to the Sheriff’s Office when there are no needed transports, and “it helps us because we’re putting people who need substance abuse help somewhere to get that help at a time that they need it.”
Dare County Commissioner Ervin Bateman, a member of the county’s Saving Lives Task Force and representative of the recovery community, lauded the move to add a deputy position.
“This thing with addiction, folks, is a worldwide problem and everyone has to stick together with this thing,” Bateman said during the Feb. 16 meeting. “This thing we did with the police officers today, that’s just one piece of the puzzle that makes it easier for someone who is in jeopardy…to get help and make that decision and hopefully they can save their lives.”