Dear Community Members,
I would like to bring some attention to an issue that is beginning to affect our county programs. Recent articles in the news have documented the issue of retention of county employees and poor recruiting results for open positions.
As taxpayers we are now beginning to see community programs being affected.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office recently announced the suspension of it D.A.R.E. program in local county schools citing manpower shortages.
County Administrator Josh Schoemann is now introducing priority based budgeting which will force county departments to cut programs and personal to minimal essentials. Recent health department mergers have forced an end to the Injury Prevention Program which presented the Every 15 Minute Program to local high school students.
The County is losing employees faster than they can replace them due to recent wage freezes, sick time reduction, insurance increases, and mergers. The County Administration needs to work to retain the highly skilled work force it currently has rather than watching them flee county employment.
I am grateful for the years I served Washington County as a Deputy Sheriff and D.A.R.E. Instructor. However, I am angry that the actions of our County Administration has led to Sheriff Dale Schmidt (a D.A.R.E. supporter) to have to look at suspending the D.A.R.E. program.
D.A.R.E. critics often say D.A.R.E. does not work but it is an important piece of our drug prevention programming.
D.A.R.E. teaches students about the facts and consequences of drug abuse. It opens up communication between parents and children about drug use and it builds a lasting bond between students and officers.
I have seen the program touch many lives over my 15 years as an instructor. I measure success in having a student come up to me years later and tell me how important the program was to them. With the current heroin and drug issues facing our community, shouldn’t we really be increasing our efforts to prevent drug use among our youth not eliminating programs?
I think it is time to tell our County Administration that we want to keep our community based programs. Maybe budget cuts should come from the top down and not start with our children.