• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Large crowd gathers for first 'Crusade Against Addiction'

To Angie Stewart and other recovering addicts, the large crowd gathered at the Woodford County Courthouse for the "Community Crusade Against Addiction" showed "our town has taken notice of this problem," she said. Seeing so many people cry during a candlelight vigil because they have all lost loved ones to a drug overdose was a reminder that "we need to do something different here," said Stewart. Holding a recently released Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy report, Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott told those gathered for Saturday's Crusade that Woodford County has not been spared from the state's drug overdose epidemic. "The report states that in 2015, nine Woodford County residents fell victim to drug overdose. That is nine people too many," Traugott said. He then told those gathered that the Versailles Police Department has joined other law enforcement agencies in the 14th Judicial Circuit to form a Drug Task Force. "This new partnership . will provide additional full-time manpower and resources to locate (drug) dealers and make sure they know that, in this case, Versailles is not open for business," he said. Versailles Police Lt. Michael Fortney described the Drug Task Force as an opportunity to focus more manpower and resources on narcotics investigations in Bourbon, Scott and Woodford counties. This collaborative effort will allow law enforcement officers in those counties to concentrate on drug investigations involving local dealers. "Obviously, the dealer side is where you want to be," Fortney said. Stewart and other recovering addicts in the community formed Raising Awareness Woodford County (R.A.W.) and then organized Saturday's Crusade to bring awareness to the effects of drug abuse and overdose deaths in Woodford County. "How we as a society respond has a lot to do with how this epidemic ends," Traugott told those assembled on Saturday. "There are those who will continue to say, 'put them in jail.' That approach has been tried and it doesn't work. Jailing addicts is like treating the symptom and ignoring the disease." In addition to being ineffective, it costs in excess of $20,000 a year to house an inmate, he said. "We can't afford a costly solution that doesn't work," he added. Stewart described the large turnout for Saturday's Crusade Against Addiction as "better than our wildest expectations . I'm still in awe." She was especially happy to see Judge Paul Isaacs, who oversees Drug Court in the 14th Judicial Circuit, at the event. Stewart, who credits Isaacs for helping her overcome her drug addiction and remain clean for 11 years, said the evening's highlight for her was being able to get a photo taken of her family with Isaacs and his wife. "There were a lot of success stories out there Saturday night - people who had fell into addiction and recovered, and are on the right path now," said Traugott in a telephone interview on Tuesday morning. He pointed out that many addictions begin with a person using prescription drugs for legitimate pain management. "Part of the solution (to ending this drug epidemic) has got to be shining a light on it - letting people know that the community cares, that there is help available (and) you don't have to be ashamed to seek help. "The stigma's got to be cast aside." Of the 165 R.A.W. t-shirts made for Saturday's inaugural event, none remained when the first ever Crusade Against Addiction candlelight vigil ended with lanterns lighting up the night sky. "It was a beautiful experience," said Stewart. She said next year's Community Crusade Against Addiction will likely take place in May when "it's not so hot."​

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