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Sheriff Bill Brown a Strong Supporter of Re-Entry, Drug Abuse Treatment Efforts

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Sheriff Bill Brown a Strong Supporter of Re-Entry, Drug Abuse Treatment Efforts

Picture of Bill Macfadyen

This article was written by Noozhawk Staff Writer Giana Magnoli as part of Day 7 in Noozhawk's 12-day, six-week special investigative series. Related links are below.

The Noozhawk's Prescription for Abuse series is a special project exploring the misuse and abuse of prescription medications in Santa Barbara County. Our series is a result of an exciting and unique partnership with USC's Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, which awarded Noozhawk a California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowship to undertake this important work.

Through our reporting and presentation, we will establish an independent baseline of where our community is with respect to the misuse and abuse of prescription medications; how the problem is affecting health care, education, law enforcement, criminal justice, addiction and treatment, and our culture and society; what we as a community can do to educate ourselves about prevention and controls; and how we can perhaps reverse what appears to be a very troubling trend.

Noozhawk staff writers Lara Cooper and Giana Magnoli are the lead reporters on the project, and they've been assisted by managing editor Michelle Nelson; reporters Alex Kacik and Sonia Fernandez; interns Kristin Crosier, Jessica Ferguson, Tim Fucci, Kristen Gowdy, Jessica Haro, Daniel Langhorne, Alexa Shapiro, Sam Skopp, Erin Stone and Sarah Webb; photographers Garrett Geyer and Nick St.Oegger; content producer Cliff Redding; and Web development staffers Will Macfadyen and Edgar Oliveira.

Ashley Almada, Garrett Geyer, Hailey Sestak and Billy Spencer of the Santa Barbara Teen News Network filmed more than two dozen public-service videos featuring many of our story sources.

The project is sponsored by the Santa Barbara Foundation in partnership with KEYT, sbTNN and Zona Seca. The Annenberg School is assisted by the Renaissance Journalism Center at San Francisco State University.


Day One:

» Quiet Epidemic of Prescription Drug Abuse Taking a Toll on Santa Barbara County

» After Losing It All, Former Drug Addict Looking Forward to Renewed Life

» USC, California Endowment Unite to Support Health Journalism at the Source

» Bill Macfadyen: Prescription for Abuse Project Is a Series of Opportunities

Day Two:

» Local, National Statistics Reveal Alarming Jumps in Misuse and Abuse of Medications

» Marijuana Use Trends Higher, Especially Among Young Adults, Sparking Public Health Concerns

» Alcohol Plays a Role All Its Own in Setting the Stage for Local Abuse, Overdoses

Day Three:

» Understanding Addiction Key to Dealing With Prescription Drug Abuse

» Donna Genera Has Seen the Price and Perils of Drug Addiction from All Sides

» Rich Detty Bears Burden of Not Knowing Extent of Dead Son's Drug Use

Day Four:

» Escalation of Drug Overdose Deaths Includes Increased Presence of Prescription Medications

» Santa Barbara Teen News Network Adds Another Dimension to Prescription Drug Abuse Series

» Dr. Chris Lambert Sounds Warning on Mixing Prescription Drugs with Alcohol

Day Five:

» Local Oversight of Prescription Medications Is Far More Focused Than State, Federal Controls

» Elderly Are Particularly Vulnerable to Both Misuse and Abuse of Prescription Drugs

» Second-Generation Pharmacist Peter Caldwell Fills a Vital Role with Patient Health Care

Day Six:

» Early Education for Parents and Youth Emerges as Critical Tactic to Thwart Drug Use

» Student Highs Can Lead to Tragic Woes with Addiction's Hook Just One Fateful Step Away

» From an Early Age, Shereen Khatapoush Saw the Horrors of Substance Abuse

» As a Parent Herself, Prosecutor Von Nguyen Brings Empathy to Job in Juvenile Justice

Day Seven:

» Law Enforcement Fights Battle Against Prescription Drug Abuse from Outside and Inside

» Sheriff Bill Brown a Strong Supporter of Re-Entry, Drug Abuse Treatment Efforts

» Speaking from Experience, Zona Seca's Kevin Smith Keeps Drug Abusers on Road to Recovery

Day Eight:

» Prescription Drug System Is Rife with Loopholes, Fraud and Lack of Oversight

» For Clinical Psychologist Neil Rocklin, Addiction Education Can't Begin Soon Enough

Day Nine:

» Drug Abuse Treatment Programs, Expertise Are Plentiful on South Coast

» Dr. David Agnew Sees Pain as Pathway to Abuse But Cautions Against Overreaction

Day Ten:

» Awareness, Disposal Key Elements to Reversing Tide of Prescription Drug Abuse

» Dr. Joe Blum Keeps Focus on His Veteran Patients Despite Health-Care System's Restraints

Day Eleven:

» Operation Medicine Cabinet Gets the Drop on Prescription Drug Disposal

» Lacey Johnson Gives UCSB Students an Education in Dealing with Drug Abuse and Addiction

Day Twelve:

» Santa Barbara County Officials Look for Solutions in Battle Against Prescription Drug Abuse

» Noozhawk Journalists Recount Lessons Learned from Prescription Drug Abuse Series

» Annenberg Fellowships Take a Diverse Approach to Community Health Journalism

» Dr. Nancy Leffert Champions Antioch University's Role in Fight Against Substance Abuse

» Professionals Working in Addiction Field Often Share Roots at Antioch University Santa Barbara

County's top lawman says treatment programs play a vital role in crime fight, even in face of funding threats
Sunday, October 2, 2011

Name: Bill Brown

Location: Santa Barbara County

Role: Sheriff

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown sees substance abuse as a growing problem among the citizens he’s sworn to protect as well as those he’s put away. Drug usage contributes to jail overcrowding and higher recidivism, he says.

Brown, a former Lompoc police chief, was elected sheriff in 2006 and he ran unopposed when he was re-elected in 2010.

He has worked with community organizations that look at larger issues, including recidivism and re-entry, mental health and substance abuse. In his view, he says, long-term change will only come from a balanced approach to law enforcement, which includes prevention, intervention and enforcement programs.

Brown has been at his most vocal during the county’s budget battles, and has said he feels as if he’s presided over the “systematic dismantling of the Sheriff’s Office.”

“When we cut, the one that gets cut is the one with the most future promise: prevention and intervention,” he said.

Eighty percent of inmates in the County Jail have a drug- or alcohol-related component to their crimes, so encouraging treatment is an important step to lowering crime levels and jail overcrowding, Brown said.

According to reports from the county Coroner’s Office, a division of the Sheriff’s Department, prescription medications, alcohol and illegal narcotics are listed as the cause of death in dozens of fatalities every year, with hundreds of other people showing up in local emergency rooms with close calls.

With such a high correlation between substance use and crime, it’s perhaps not surprising that California’s average recidivism rates are around 75 percent. But in Santa Barbara County, inmate graduates of the Sheriff’s Treatment Program have a significantly lower rate of being rearrested after their release, at 35 percent.

The program is conducted entirely inside the County Jail and it actually is supervised by a former inmate and addict. Brown said it was essential to have a “credible voice” in the program.

“This is an example where we have to walk the walk and open the door for someone who had turned around,” he told Noozhawk.

Brown is a steering committee member of Fighting Back, which is run by the Santa Barbara Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse, and he has thrown his full support behind Santa Barbara County’s re-entry philosophy.

With more state prison felons being released from their sentences early or being transferred to local jails, Brown has collaborated with the District Attorney’s Office, the Probation Department and other local public safety agencies to organize a re-entry system well in advance. Santa Barbara County is said to be “light years ahead” of others.

The County Jail is continuously over capacity and last year Brown pushed hard — but unsuccessfully — for a sales tax measure that would have provided millions of dollars for a new jail. The facility’s design was treatment-centered, with cells grouped around classroom areas for easier mobility of inmates.

Even as the Board of Supervisors continues to cut budgets, the Sheriff’s Department proceeds with efforts to combat prescription drug abuse through Operation Medicine Cabinet, which was launched under Brown’s tenure in 2009.

The program’s drop-off boxes are located at nine sheriff’s substations throughout the county, providing citizens a place to get rid of expired or unused drugs. Demand for the resource is high, with the drop boxes collecting about one ton of medications every three months.

“The realities are that a legally prescribed drug taken recklessly will kill you just as quickly as an illicit drug,” Brown said.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.