Drugs are the root cause of many crimes. Andrea Arnett of Pratt wants to establish drug court programs that will help break the cycle of addiction and lower crimes rates as a result.
Taking the county back. That's the goal of the Pratt Coalition, an organization that is fighting the drug problem in Pratt.
Andrea Arnett, a recovered drug addict, helped start Pratt Coalition in August or September of 2016 as a way to help people break the cycle of drug addition. When the program started, they had a big response. Pratt was tired of what was going on. The need had found an outlet.
"I think people feel they have a voice now," Arnett said. "We've had a huge response. It's been very positive."
Pratt Police, Pratt County Sheriff and the new Pratt County Attorney have been very supportive of the idea. The Coalition has set up meetings once a month with the next meeting at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 28 at the Pratt Community Center.
To Arnett, the main crime issue in Pratt is drugs. She said about 99 percent of the people in jail are mech addicts. If Pratt Coalition can find a way to cure the addict, they will lower the crime rate in Pratt.
As a recovered drug addict, Arnett understands the dependence addicts have to their particular drug. An addict sees drugs like oxygen. When a drowning person sees oxygen, they will move it to save their lives.
For a drug addict, they see drugs like oxygen. An addict will do anything to get drugs just like the drowning person will do anything to get to oxygen. For the addict, that need can lead to stealing and eventually into the court system.
The person is caught and has court appearances then does a plea bargain and gets a slap on the hand and gets right back out on the street. Arnett said she could use Facebook to attack these people or she could be part of a solution to get them off drugs.
She started a Facebook group, Pratt Coalition, to take the county back. The response was immediate and big. She had from 300 to 400 responses within about four days and now it's grown to 1,000 people.
The Coalition wanted to do something to break they cycle and they started with a Drug Court that has been successful in other cities. There are several ways to do it and it can be tailored to Pratt County, Arnett said.
Her idea for the coalition was the Drug Court. She said it's like community corrections on steroids. The addicts meet with the judge and their attorney's frequently. They are tested every couple of days, they have to get a job, stay clean and go to meetings.
There was a very strong incentive to stay with the program and succeed. If the addicts are successful, the felony charges are removed from their records. It's a way for addicts to recover and not have a felony charge for the rest of their lives.
Another element for Pratt Coalition is court monitoring. Court proceedings are monitored and reported plea bargains are reported. The result of court monitoring that was started by Mother's Against Drunk Driving, is fewer plea bargains and more convictions.
A women is being trained to do this in Pratt and the new Pratt County Attorney Tracey Beverlin is pleased with the idea.
The coalition is also working on a neighborhood watch. It would have a representative from each neighborhood where boundaries would be established. There would be a schedule for someone to regularly drive around a neighborhood and the result would be more eyes on the streets and the houses.
Arnett said she want's for Pratt to take part in a national night out so people can get to know the other people in their neighborhood.
Arnett got addicted to pain medicine when she was 15. After she was divorced, that addiction to pain medicine led to opiates then she became a IV methamphetamine user. She said her mind worked different and it didn't matter what drug it was as long as it would take her away from herself and numb her.
Arnett tried local drug treatments but they was unsuccessful. With support from her family and friends, she traveled to California and entered a successful treatment program for 90 days. She stayed on another 90 for sober living. The treatment helped her deal with things she had not been able to cope with.
Arnett and her family moved here when she was 10. Her parents started Trand, a crane company, and she worked there as a manger. She attended the University of Kansas and Wichita State University then got a nursing degree from Pratt Community College.
Arnett is a single mom with three boys ages 2, 5 and 13.