Six people over the past two weeks.
That’s how many people have walked into the offices at Mono County Behavioral Health seeking help with opioid addiction.
13 people over the past four years.
That’s how many people have died from drug-related overdoses since 2013 according to Mono County’s Director of Behavioral Health Robin Roberts.
19. That’s the number of children in 2015-2016 who had parents that sought treatment at Mono County Behavioral Health for methamphetamine and heroin addiction.
And yet, Mono County now holds the dubious distinction of being the only County in California which does not have a Narcotics Enforcement team.
As Roberts said this week, “Who’s going to have to die for people to start paying attention?”—implying that it will take the death of someone well-known locally for the spike in substance abuse issues to truly register.
Mono County District Attorney Tim Kendall addressed a joint meeting of Mammoth Lakes Town Council and Mono County Supervisors on Tuesday, July 18 to talk about the demise of MONET (Mono County Narcotics Enforcement Team).
He said that prior to 2011, MONET was funded in equal measure by the Town, County, Mono County Probation and the Mono County DA’s office.
The airport litigation settlement caused the Town (Mammoth Lakes Police Department) to back out in 2011.
A shortage of deputies caused the County (Sheriff’s Office) to pull the plug in 2014.
Probation, as discussed in Bodine’s story last week, has changed philosophical direction and is spending its resources elsewhere.
That left just one person in the DA’s office holding the whole thing together.
Kendall said that he can no longer have just one person doing the job without help. “The cases are too big and too dangerous [to handle] without backup.”
Despite having just one member, Kendall said there were 132 cases opened last year. This compares with 339 cases in 2011, pre-Town defection.
However, of those 132 cases, 44% involved additional crimes, including four shootings.
Kendall said that historically, only 15% of cases involve multiple crimes, so the trend is troubling.
73% of last year’s cases originated in Mammoth Lakes.
Police Chief Al Davis said that it would cost $180,000 for the Town to get back in the game and dedicate one officer to MONET.
According to Kendall, Sheriff Ingrid Braun said the County would participate if the Town participates.
As Kendall noted, the Town whittled its officer level from 17 to 11 in the wake of its near-bankruptcy in 2011.
For the past seven years, that staffing level has remained static, meaning, to quote the great philosopher Bon Jovi, we’ve been “living on a prayer” ever since.
Councilman Bill Sauser claims the Town does not have the resources to fund the position.
Which is an absolute lie. The Town has the resources—just not the political will. And that’s on Sauser, Wentworth, Richardson, Fernie and Hoff. And it will be on them every day until they get something done.
There were a lot of excuses on Tuesday. The Town doesn’t know if it can commit to hiring an extra officer on a full-time basis. What if there’s an economic downturn?
Of course, this hasn’t seemed to pervade their thinking when it comes to building baubles which will have plaques in the entryway with their names on them.
As Mayor Wentworth said candidly, “We have not been apprised really of the unintended consequences of what the Police Department shortage [of sworn officers] has wrought.”
Well, you’ve just been apprised. So …
As Mono County Supervisor Bob Gardner said, “I don’t see how we walk away from this. We need to direct staff to come back to us with an alternative [to disbanding MONET] … what is more important than this from a priority standpoint? It goes to essence of protecting our quality of life.”
As Kendall added, “I’m struggling to tell people why I can’t bust the guy who’s selling drugs to their kids.”