WINFIELD, W.Va. -- Drug offenders in Putnam County could end up in treatment instead of jail -- and at a lower daily cost to the county.
The Putnam County Commission unanimously approved a proposal from Prosecutor Mark Sorsaia and County Manager Brian Donat to reserve two beds at The Healing Place in Huntington for Putnam County residents who participate in drug court.
The beds cost $32.50 per day, or $11,800 per year per bed for a total financial commitment of about $23,600 from the county.
The county's regional jail bill has soared from $1.1 million several years ago to an estimated $1.7 million this year at a daily rate of $48 per inmate.
"It's obvious to me that this phenomenon with the jail bill is all driven by addiction," Sorsaia said. "We're struggling with it every day."
Sorsaia praised the commission and county for being proactive in dealing with drug issues through community corrections and drug courts for both juveniles and adults.
"We just are desperately in need of more in-patient drug treatment," Sorsaia said.
Sorsaia told the commission that he and Donat have made several visits to The Healing Place over the last year to see if it could be part of the diversion program for drug offenders in Putnam County.
"I cannot represent to the county commission that placing two individuals at The Healing Place is going to have a significant impact on our jail bill," Sorsaia said in a letter to commissioners.
"I can represent to the commission that common sense dictates that placing one person in The Healing Center ... and providing them with drug treatment would greatly enhance their future prospects of not re-offending and ultimate lending up as a Putnam County inmate at a regional jail."
Sorsaia told commissioners that he has met with one local church about privately sponsoring additional beds for Putnam County residents and that he plans to meet with more churches and other nonprofit groups to increase the number of reserved beds.
The Healing Center is a nonprofit in-patient treatment facility that currently serves men only. The program takes six to nine months to complete.