The Stand in the Gap movement is now officially a coalition of several counties who were represented Sunday at the latest meeting.
“There’s strength in numbers,” said Lori Jones, the incoming District Attorney General for Tennessee’s 8th Judicial District. Jones has been appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam to take the place of the retiring Paul Phillips until the 2014 election.
Jones was one of the representatives from Scott County, which is taking part in the movement as one of the counties taking a stand against drug and alcohol abuse. Other counties represented in the coalition include Claiborne, Campbell, Hawkins, Hancock, Union and Lee County, Va. Bell Co., Ky., has representation but is part of the district in southeast Kentucky, that falls under a project U.S. Congressman Hal Rogers spearheaded, Operation UNITE. UNITE is acronym for Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment and Education.
Jones told the crowd that what the coalition aims to do will not be easy. Scott County has an active anti-drug coalition and they are bringing their experience to the SITG movement.
“In the justice system we have excellent law enforcement, excellent prosecutors, but that’s not always the answer,” she said. “We have to have the ability to send these people to treatment centers.”
Jones, a longtime member of the Scott Co. School Board, also emphasized the importance of programs in the schools.
“We need to change our young people’s way of thinking - make them realize that it’s not cool to do drugs,” she said.
One of the main things she emphasized is that the coalition must have a “passion for the cause.” She encouraged people to get churches involved.
The second thing Jones emphasized is that there has to be a good process for handling those affected by drug addiction.
“The Drug Task Force is ready, willing and able to fight this battle but they can’t do it alone,” she said.
The third item she emphasized was that people need to change the way they think about the problems.
“We can put people in jail all day long, but we need to change a lot of ways people think about it and include other solutions,” she said. “Jail is an option but not always the best option.”
In addition to Jones, the 8th Judicial District Attorney General’s office was represented by Assistant DA Jared Effler, who showed his support for the anti-drug effort as well.
The coalition is looking at ways to deter people from the “drug culture,” including education and treatment. The next meeting will be Aug. 12.