Augusta Co. LEAD program gets grant, reports increases in litter control program

Augusta Co. LEAD program gets grant, reports increases in litter control program
Litter collected in Augusta County (Source: WHSV)

AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - The Augusta County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office has received $600,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice. The money will go toward efforts to identify, treat and support those affected by the illicit use of opioids and other drugs through the office’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program.

“We don’t really have as big of an opioid problem here in Augusta County. We do have a meth problem,” Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Caleb Kramer said.

The grant will fund a new case management program, which will connect higher-risk offenders with community resources prior to them being charged. It will first be used to hire a full-time project manager, who will be in charge of integrating with local organizations and coordinate services that are needed. Some examples may include collaboration for services with shelters, career services groups, counselors, drug treatment centers, and vocational services.

“I wanted to be able to bring a full force of all the community resources that I can to help these people out and help drive them toward a more positive direction in their lives,” Kramer said. “Case managers will be instrumental in ensuring immediate intervention, right after arrest for example, as well as continuity of care which, evidence shows, are critical to offenders' long-term success.”

The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office reported success with its current LEAD program, the Pre-charge Diversion and Litter Control Program, which diverts first-time, low-level offenders to community service and requires them to remain charge free and drug-free and to participate in interventions.

The Augusta County Litter Control Program reports more than 36,000 pounds of trash collected in 2019. That’s over 24,000 pounds more than in 2018.

The program also recorded a significant increase in man-hours and miles covered in 2019.

Those numbers will drop a bit for 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic pausing the program.

Kramer said you can help to continue lowering those numbers by not littering, which is one thing this program teaches.

“It’s very culture changing. I’ll have participants who, when they start, maybe joking about there being litter. Like, ‘ha ha. I probably did some of this.’ At the end of it, they’ll be like, ‘if my friends ever do that again, I’m going to yell at them,’” Kramer said.

The Augusta County Litter Control program reports they picked up 410 tires along roadways in 2019, which is up from 71 in 2018.

Kramer said it’s mostly from people illegally dumping tires in embankments. He said improper disposal of tires can not only take away from the county’s beauty, but it can also be harmful to the environment.

“Contributes to a lot of disease and pests that we don’t like that are disease vectors. I think there’s a huge amount of effects. They’re not visible, but just because they’re not visible doesn’t mean they’re not there,” Kramer said.

You can properly dispose of tires at the county landfill and you can report trash you see along the roadway to the program by calling 540-254-7826.

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