At the forum on Thursday, June 6, 2019, researchers and policy leaders from across the United States gathered in the nation's capital to discuss multigenerational approaches and policy strategies to promote health and well-being of children and families. Particular attention was paid to multisector strategies that promote public health and safety, using the opioid crisis as a case study and exploring policies being implemented around the country aimed at preventing opioid misuse.
Commonwealth's Attorney Chuck Slemp said, "I am humbled to join this distinguished group of policy leaders and scholars. Itsexciting that our efforts in Wise County to combat the substance abuse crisis are gaining national attention and recognition. I am so proud of the teamwork of our prosecutors, law enforcement officers, prevention advocates, and public service workers and the successes of our Wise Works Program."
Wise Works gives an alternative sentencing option for low-level, low-risk offenders. Rather than of simply being incarcerated, qualifying participants are sentenced to work community service jobs without pay such as picking up trash, cleaning at the animal shelter, or working at non-profit organizations. Slemp explained to the gathering in Washington, DC, "Instead of costing taxpayers $30 a day to sit in jail, watch tv, and eat honey buns, these folks are sentenced to work, get substance abuse treatment, and develop workforce training." Since the program started, participants have worked over 30,000 hours saving localities almost $400,000 in labor costs and the initiative has resulted in a savings of $500,000 for taxpayers in unnecessary jail costs.
In addition to Chuck Slemp's presentation on Wise County, Virginia, last week's forum also featured other presentations from speakers who discussed innovative community-based prevention and intervention programs in Minnesota, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, and various federal agencies.