Health Grant Denied

Recently the Madison County Council voted – in a split vote – to deny a grant in the amount of $15,000 to the County’s health department that, in large part, was to be used to provide information about drug treatment options and disease prevention to drug addicts. I’m highly disappointed with the decision of my colleagues on the council for this decision. They voted against appropriating this grant funding because it’s connected to the county health department’s syringe exchange program. Regardless of which side of the exchange debate you may fall, everyone should be able to agree that getting information about treatment options and disease prevention in the hands of addicts is a necessary part of the solution to ending the drug crisis that our county faces.

Madison County is currently facing three major epidemics that I believe are all interconnected: (1) the HIV/Hepatitis C outbreak, (2) opiate abuse, (3) jail overcrowding. These are all complex issues that require serious action from our community leaders. Denying grant funds intended to curb these crises simply because it makes one feel uncomfortable is not leadership. The negative consequences of drug abuse affect not only the individuals who abuse drugs but also their families, community businesses, and government resources. Madison County simply cannot afford to turn away grant funds that will help address this problem.

While the cost of keeping so many people incarcerated from drug related offenses is staggering, it pales in comparison to the potential financial losses sustained by the impact that drug abuse can have on economic development efforts. A few of the metrics used by companies that are seeking relocation are crime statistics, available workforce, and overall health ratings of the community. These numbers can be the deciding factor on a company moving to Anderson or a competing city. In the recently released health rankings for 2016, Madison County was 79th in the state in overall health. We must improve in this area to be competitive nationally, and addressing the drug epidemic will undoubtedly help do that.
The currently denied grant is set to expire in December and if the Council continues to not act on this issue then we will have forfeited $15,000 that could have been used to battle addiction and the spread of disease in our county. It’s my hope that my fellow Council members will reconsider this funding before surrendering an opportunity to improve our community.

Clayton Whitson
Madison County Council District 1

 

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