ACKSBORO, Tenn. (WATE) – The opioid epidemic is an ongoing problem across East Tennessee and the issue is hitting Campbell County hard. The area ranks third across the nation for opioid prescriptions per capita.
At the Campbell County jail, the problem is at its worst. The sheriff says 98 percent of the jail population has some connection to prescription pills. Even after their release, many inmates have trouble finding work and transitioning back to society, still dealing with problems associated with addiction.
A group in Campbell County is trying to help with that problem, helping previous inmates find work and put them on a pathway toward a productive, crime-free life.
Brandon Longmire struggled with drugs for much of his life. He’s also a convicted felon who went to jail about a dozen times. He says his life of crime and drug use is all in the past, thanks to a new program called “A New Beginning.”
“When I was dealing drugs, it seemed like my only option. It just did because I couldn’t find a job anywhere else,” Longmire said.
A New Beginning helps people like Longmire make the transition from jail to the workforce.
“I think a lot of them don’t even know where to start, so if we can be a starting point, if we can help them see their worth, to see that they can show up to work every day and be a productive citizen, earn a paycheck,” said A New Beginning Assistant Director Stacy Bosch.
Director David Bosch knows the addiction struggle all too well and says people deserve a second change to live productive lives.
“I was a functioning alcoholic who didn’t know he had a problem for 20 years, nine years ago, and I came down here to a community that didn’t know me, so it gave me a new beginning and I want to now establish for the people in our community that new beginning. I want to give them a clean slate to start out with,” he said.
His program helps previous inmates not only find employment, but also develop skills in welding and fiberglass. A New Beginning connects participants with a mentor and even requires a series of drug screenings to keep them on track and accountable.
“I’m thankful that I’m being given another chance and I don’t want to squander that. I want to be able to live life without being addicted to anything,” said Longmire.
The program has only been in existence for about three months and so far has 18 previous inmates participating.