Special Report: Daviess Co. officials work to ‘attack addiction’

Special Report: Daviess Co. officials work to ‘attack addiction’
Updated: Dec. 19, 2019 at 9:40 PM CST
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DAVIESS CO., Ky. (WFIE) - Just in the last five years, Owensboro Police say the number of meth-related arrests in the community has nearly tripled.

While talking with detectives and county officials, we quickly discovered meth addiction hits very close to home for a very familiar face in Daviess County. This has inspired him to take action, hoping to save others from the same loss.

Al Mattingly is a familiar name and face around Daviess County. He has been serving the area since 2011.

But let’s rewind back to 2002 before he became judge-executive.

“11 o’clock I got a call, my brother had been arrested for manufacturing methamphetamine with three other guys,” recalls Daviess County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly.

Fast forward to now and addiction numbers are back up. It is an issue becoming all too common in Daviess County.

Meth has increased so much in the last five years city officials are calling it a “meth scourge.”

“The problem is it’s so much cheaper than it was even when it was manufactured here locally," explains Daviess County Sheriff’s Office Major Barry Smith. "It used to be you’d have methamphetamine be $100 a gram and now you can buy it for $30 a gram.”

Local law enforcement goes undercover and out on the streets to purchase the drug. Sergeant Nichols, who works on the street crimes unit for the Owensboro Police Department, says his team makes crystal meth purchases daily.

“From 2014 to almost 300 hundred arrests to current where we’re at almost 800 arrests this year," says Sergeant Nichols. "I feel like is in part due to availability. Methamphetamine is widely available in the area.”

Here’s a look at meth arrests made by the Owensboro Police Department:

2019: 784 (year-to-date)

2018: 711

2017: 633

2016: 510

2015: 360

2014: 287

*These numbers do not include arrests made by the Daviess County Sheriff’s Office or Kentucky State Police*

“I think meth had a good hold here in our community before the opiate crisis became so big,” says River Valley Behavioral Health’s Senior Director of Substance Abuse Prevention Doctor RonSonlyn Clark.

Doctor Clark has worked at drug treatment facilities in Owensboro for more than two decades. She meets with addicts every day.

According to her, 60 percent of her patients struggle with meth addiction.

“When we had individuals manufacturing methamphetamine in their backyards, out in the woods, that was not to the degree of purity that we have and it was made with a lot of chemicals that you could buy at a hardware store, or a department store, or a grocery store,” Dr. Clark explains.

Doctor Clark says what people often forget is the toll addiction can take on those closest to us.

“Substance abuse has a direct effect on at least seven other lives,” says Dr. Clark.

Mattingly reflects on the day his twin brothers were born.

“It was one of those monumental days that you have in your life and you can just about remember everything," Mattingly recalls. "And growing up they’d follow me around.”

Not knowing, that years later, one of them would battle drug addiction. When asked if he ever suspected his brother would battle drug addiction, Mattingly says yes.

“I would tell you, yes and I think my mom would tell you yes," Mattingly explains. "But what do loved ones usually do for their loved one? As opposed to holding them up and accountable. What do they do? We enable them.”

With the help of his family, Mattingly's brother made his way into recovery and spent the last few years of his life counseling others on their own journeys to recovery.

“He loved what he was doing," says Mattingly. "That would have been in 2004 and late 2006 he was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer and passed away in 2008.”

“That does kind of play into the back of your mind and how widespread it can be," explains Major Smith. "That nobody can really go through untouched with some family members exposed to that problem.”

Now, years since his brother’s passing, Mattingly is on a mission to help those dealing with addiction in this community.

[Related: The grip of addiction in Vanderburgh County]

“Now I advocate and work for not just enforcement of law, but for treatment and rehabilitation and helping those folks get back into society," explains Mattingly. “Because they can become good members of society, productive members of society, worthwhile members of society.” “It’s all because of a personal experience. It’s amazing how your perspective changes when it has to do with someone that you love.”

Mattingly says the city and county will continue the discussion surrounding meth by meeting with local agencies to address the issue.

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