Eyewitness News’ Brad Byrd interview Tony Metcalf with Churches Embracing Offenders about the work of the program — helping people with drug abuse problems get back on their feet.
Here’s a transcription of the interview:
SK:The opioid epidemic has hit the Tri-State. We’ve seen the ravages of addiction — even death.
That’s why Eyewitness News is continuing our A Community in Pain initiative.
Let’s return to Brad Byrd who is at the Vanderburgh County Prosecutor’s Officer where our call center is set up.
BB:Well, thank you very much, Shelley. It’s very difficult sometimes to put a human face on this crisis that has hit so many people right here in our own community. But I want to bring in right now, Tony Metcalf, who is with Churches Embracing Offenders. And Tony is basically at the front line helping individuals who have run into trouble with the law — often caused by drug abuse and getting them back on their feet to get into some type of normal society. How many individuals do you talk to?
TM: We see about 300 people a year on average that come through the Churches Embracing Offenders program but we talk to many more than that. I’d say probably closer to 300 a month. We have an ongoing relationship with the prison and the jail so we facilitate a number of programs with those facilities, and so we have the opportunity to speak with individuals and give them a plan and a hope for the future when they’re released.
BB: And you know, it’s been a situation in which many of our jails are filled to the brim and there’s been that. And there’s been that argument that jails have become in many ways mental health centers. With the work that you are doing, it’s easier said than done to just basically send someone out after he or she has served their time.
TM: Well, sure. The problem is that when a person is released, even if they’ve gone through all the treatment programs and everything that’s available to you — if they go back to the same environment that they came out of — they’re likely to do the same thing. What we try to do is not only show them a different way to live, but provide the resources necessary to be able to change their people, places, and things.
BB: Do you see the number of people you see growing?
TM: Actually, Brad, I have seen the number decrease significantly.
BB:Why is that?
TM: Well, I think that a lot of it has to do with the perspective of the courts. They’re more — they’ve become more treatment oriented. Our prosecutor’s office is fantastic with this and they see when an individual is doing something to change their life. They will give them the opportunity to participate in the treatment program rather than incarceration. So, we’ve seen a number of decreased beds being occupied in the prison — even some of the smaller facilities. These have closed now because we are seeing more people given the opportunity to recover rather than just be incarcerated.
BB: All right, Tony Metcalf, with Churches Embracing Offenders, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us and working these phones today. And our call center is still open. Coming up at 5, we’re going to be taking a look at other methods that are helping individuals kick this horrendous addiction that has changed their lives, their family’s lives, and their friends’ lives — and it’s all with the help of one shot a month. We’ll explain coming up tonight on Eyewitness News at 5 as our Community in Pain Initiative continues.