Harris County Releases Plan to Combat Drug Abuse

Last fall, a wide variety of government and community leaders came together to discuss drug and alcohol abuse in Houston and Harris County. This week the group presented their 5 year plan for addressing all aspects of the drug problem. Melissa Galvez reports.

According to the  Department of Justice, Houston is the main port for cocaine transportation in the United States.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says Harris County has the highest number of alcohol related traffic deaths per capita. 

These statistics demonstrate why the City of Houston and Harris County felt they needed a coherent drug policy. So last fall, the Houston Harris County Office of Drug Policy brought together leaders from over 100 education, mental health, law enforcement, and community organizations to brainstorm solutions.  They focused on 4 areas: prevention, treatment, law enforcement, and data collection.

Sheriff Adrian Garcia says that the best thing about the strategic plan is that it brings together so many voices.

"We've long said that if we coordinate our efforts, that we are apt to have greater results, a greater impact, that money will be much more effectively spent." 

Garcia wants to make sure that the whole drug abuse system is working together, from prevention through law enforcement and recovery.

"As the sheriff of Harris county, I've got 12,000 people in my custody, a significant number of those folks have a drug dependency, so I need to make sure that I have a network system, so that when folks are being discharged out of my jail, they're falling into a support system versus going back to the environment that brought them to my jail to begin with."

Ray Andrews is the director of the Mayor's anti-drug office, called Houston Crackdown.  He says that the plan calls for lots of data collection-on where to get treatment, what drugs are being used, and where police should focus their efforts.  With this data all in one place, he hopes the city can help more citizens.

"There's resources available out there, we've found that there are more people who would get help if they knew where to turn.  And our job then, is to make community resources more available to our citizens."

Some have called drug abuse a "community problem".  It looks like it's going to get a community solution.

Melissa Galvez, Houston Public Radio News.