Every time I sit down to talk with my grandfather, he always seems to express the same sentiment. He assures me he is so very thankful for the lives his children and grandchildren lead.

Jail or prison time, drug addictions and other things of that nature scare him to death, rightfully so. He says he doesn’t have to worry where we are or what we’re doing because he says he feels confident about our actions. He constantly mentions the fact that so many young people in our community and so many families have been touched by the crimes associated with the opioid crisis that has hit our area.

I think I didn’t understand the weight of the drug epidemic here until I started working in news. I grew up Sand Mountain, so hearing that a meth lab was found was commonplace. Here, we have to report when our law enforcement officers and deputies make drug arrests during traffic stops, saturations, warrant executions, etc. It’s never ending. We only see the faces, the names and the crimes, but other departments in the county see many more of the after-effects in these situations. It’s not a meth lab “here and there” like I grew imagining. It’s an everyday fight for our community’s survival against an invisible enemy: addiction.

Just this week, I sat down with Sheriff Nick Welden to talk about ways his department is finding funding for programs that they hope will help eliminate the problem. One of the platforms that Welden ran his campaign on was changing the way the county handled money obtained from pistol permits. His change to the permits is still before the legislature, and it will have major reforms if it passes. Every dollar of the pistol permit money will be earmarked for specific programs for our school resource officers to conduct classes with our county youth. If this passes, much more emphasis will be placed on preventative actions towards the opioid crisis in DeKalb County.

Although my family has not been touched by this epidemic, I know so many families that are. This is something very important in our community that Welden is fighting against.

Look for a story in this weekend’s edition, detailing the plans with the permit changes.

Emily Kirby is a staff writer for the Times-Journal. She can be reached at ekirby@times-journal.com.

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