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Anti-Drug Coalition holds first meeting

Posted on Wednesday, March 6, 2024 at 8:00 am


From left, Jarrod Swain, Juvenile Court Director; Detective Nathan Everhart of the SPD; Deputy Chief Brian Crews of the SPD; Chief Mike DeJesus of the Wartrace Fire Department; Jimmy West, Pastor of Edgemont Baptist Church and Director of the Prevention Coalition of Bedford County; Sgt. Tracey Harvey, Bedford County Schools’ Director of SROs; Deputy Sheriff Nikia Elliott. (photo by Zoe Watkins)

“Bedford has a drug problem.”

It’s an all-too-common phrase many say about Bedford County. But a coalition of local city and county law enforcement, government officials, and school representatives is hoping to tackle that issue and find solutions.

The first Bedford County Anti-Drug Coalition (BCAC) met Thursday night at Victory Baptist Church to introduce the dozen people on the committee attending the meeting.

At the meeting were: coalition chairman and County Commissioner Eric Maddox; Deputy Sheriff Nikia Elliott; Sgt. Tracey Harvey, Bedford County Schools’ Director of SROs; Jimmy West, Pastor of Edgemont Baptist Church and Director of the Prevention Coalition of Bedford County; Chief Mike DeJesus of the Wartrace Fire Department; Deputy Chief Brian Crews of the Shelbyville Police Department; Detective Nathan Everhart of the SPD; Jarrod Swain, Juvenile Court Director; Lindsey Wiley, Mental Health Coordinator for BCS; Janolyn King, Principal of Bedford County Learning Academy; and Marilyn Ewing of the Shelbyville City Council.

Maddox explained the intent of the group is to identify opportunities to fight illegal drugs in the county in addition to identifying current resources.

“The intent of this coalition is to take politics completely out of the equation,” said Maddox. ”This is not a Republican issue. This is not a Democrat issue. This is not an Independent issue. This is an issue that affects families across the county.”

Sgt. Harvey, who’s been in law enforcement for nearly 30 years, said, “I’ve been an SRO for 22 years and I’ve seen a tremendous upshift in the drug problem here in Bedford County. I’ve seen how it affects adults but I’ve also seen how it really affects our children — being in the schools has opened my eyes to that more.”

Maddox emphasized that the drug issue in the county is not a law enforcement problem.

“It’s a problem that we all have and a problem that we can all contribute to find a solution for or enhancing the solutions we already have in place,” said Maddox. “I just want to make that clear — it’s not a law-enforcement problem. The finger should never be pointed at just law enforcement.”

Deputy Chief Crews, who’s been with the police department for 24 years, put it this way, “It’s not a law enforcement issues. It’s the law-abiding issue.”

This led to the conversation of identifying addicts versus drug dealers.

“We should work hard to recognize that addicts should be treated differently than people that deal in illegal narcotics,” said Crews.

Deputy Sheriff Elliott, who’s worked for the Sheriff’s Office for 23 years, explained that, “The actual addiction can be treated. But it’s a lot of the things that cause that addiction that never get treated.” He referred to how the story of each addict in jail is very similar.

“Most things, if law enforcement is the solution to it, then you’ve already got a problem,” said Elliott. “I think it’s a lot more beneficial to attack that on the front end of that and hope that you can prevent that problem.”

Det. Everhart — who Crews said is on the “forefront of the war” on drugs — talked about how drugs are related to other local crimes, commonly homicide, forgery, and theft.

Working hand-in-hand with the 17th Judicial Drug task Force, Everhart oversees the execution of search warrants and investigations.

“The last homicide I was assigned to was a known drug dealer that I had actually participated in a controlled, undercover drug purchase from him probably a month before he was murdered. He was murdered for the money he had stored in his house. He had an extremely large amount of cocaine and large amount of money, and he was shot in the head. He still didn’t deserve that being a drug dealer, but they’re connected,” said Everhart.

One of the biggest concerns is the intensity of “newer” drugs, such as Tranq (which comes from Xylazine, a sedative used for animals) and as fentanyl is being laced into other drugs. Maddox reminded the group that it only takes the amount of fentanyl to cover the tip of a pencil to kill someone.

Everhart added, “We’re seeing some of the older, experienced drug dealers die of overdose. They’re supposed to know their product and they don’t know their product. You can’t trust what’s in it.”

Elliott said, “Now, honestly, crack is so mild compared to some of this other stuff that’s out there.”

Then, a re-released drug addict might overdose due to a lower tolerance after spending months away from drugs while incarcerated.

Most coalition meetings will be open to the public. However the next planned meeting will be a workshop for only BCAC members.

“The intent also is to make sure everything is transparent to the public, but I know there are some topics that may be sensitive for an outside public group,” said Maddox.

Their next M.O. is to gather data and study the patterns.

“My mom and dad were both addicted to alcohol. By the age of nine years old, I was considered homeless,” Maddox said. “I think by the grace of God and those stepped up to help me, here I am today. Hopefully helping us all help others.

“So the return on investment for this coalition in my eyes is if we can just help one person…”

If you or a loved one would like help now with drug addiction, call the Prevention Coalition of Bedford County at (931) 575-5100, or visit their website at

Pastor West said, “I have family members who drank themselves to death. I have family members who overdosed on heroine and overdosed on fentanyl, and it’s a heartbreaking thing to see.

“There is just an endless list of resources and nonprofits in our community…I think communication is key.”