NEW ORLEANS – Orleans County Sheriff Randy Bower received a leadership award from a national organization on Sunday for his work to implement several new initiatives in the county, including expanded substance abuse and mental health services for inmates in the Orleans County Jail.
The sheriff also has reached out to the faith community and several local pastors agreed to be mentors for people battling addictions who are transitioning from the jail. That initiative is called the Sheriff’s CARE program for Community Addiction Rehabilitation Education.
Bower says the county can’t solve the opioid crisis solely through arrests and using Narcan. The mentors act as recovery coaches, who help people fighting addiction make their appointments and also provide a listening ear.
Bower has been at the National Sheriffs’ Association Conference in New Orleans this week. On Sunday he was presented with a MAGNUS Leadership Award “in recognition of your tireless work implementing bold initiatives that have created synergy and trust between the citizens of your community and your agency,” according to a letter from Mitch Javidi, chancellor of National Command & Staff College and CEO and president of International Academy of Public Safety.
Bower’s award comes from the National Command & Staff College which stresses a strong moral compass for law enforcement officers and that they are all leaders within their communities.
The Sheriff’s Office has led a number of outreach and public safety events in the county, including several at local schools. Bower said he is pleased deputies are taking the initiative in organizing the events, including a new one on Sunday at the Albion Walmart from noon to 2 p.m.
That event includes a child restraint check, DWI/Distracted Driving Simulator, Marine Safety, K9 demonstration with “Otto,” hot dog cookout and Operation Safe Child.
“We’re trying to do right by the people and give them everything we can,” Bower said by phone this afternoon.
He praised the deputies and other members of the Sheriff’s Office for embracing the outreach efforts and a more compassionate approach to criminal justice services, including the added programs to help inmates in the jail.
Other agencies and local pastors have all stepped forward to assist people, especially those with addictions.
“Everybody is helping,” Bower said. “If you reach out, they’ll help. They just need to be asked.”
Bower has been active with Orleans Hope, a multi-pronged effort by the community to fight the opioid crisis. Churches have stepped up their efforts, welcoming addicts instead of shunning them. Several churches have Celebrate Recovery programs.
Orleans Hope also welcomed Scott Caraboolad and a group of stunt bike riders for a few days in October. The Ride4Life visited local schools and had community events, including at the Fairgrounds. The lead rider, Caraboolad, is a recovering addict. He shared how he overcame his drug addiction.
Bower embraced Caraboolad’s presentations, wanting to connect with people battling addictions and urge them to seek help. Bower also wanted students to hear a Caraboolad’s message, to not seek comfort from drugs and alcohol, and how drug use can escalate and take over – and end – lives.
Bower has welcomed addiction services for inmates in the county jail, connecting them to treatment programs, health insurance and Vivitrol, a shot that helps stave off drug urges. The county has pushed to have a transition from the jail to GCASA or another treatment program.