On July 29, Gov. Jay Nixon announced that the Southwest Missouri Drug Task Force will receive a $280,956 Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) through the Missouri Department of Public Safety.
"This is our regular grant that we apply for each year, which is a very valuable part of what keeps the task force going," said Barry County Sheriff Mick Epperly. "We are very blessed to receive this grant at this time, because we have been really having to watch our spending. The budget has been very tight."
Earlier this year, federal budget cuts trimmed more that 60 percent of the funding for drug task force initiatives. The funds being allocated by the Department of Public Safety are provided under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
"The production, sale and use of illegal drugs are problems that devastate communities and put Missouri citizens at great risk," said Nixon. "Specialized task forces that allow law enforcement officers to focus on solving drug-related crimes are a powerful tool for dealing with troubling issues like the spread of methamphetamine."
Epperly estimated that over 80 percent of the individuals housed at the Barry County Jail are charged with drug-related crimes.
In May, the Southwest Missouri Drug Task Force kicked off a fundraising campaign to help compensate for the cut in federal funding. Many local individuals and businesses have donated to the "Are You a Proud Supporter of the Drug Task Force?" campaign.
"The campaign is going quite well considering how the economy is," said Epperly. "We appreciate the supporters of that campaign. It is another avenue to help us take drugs off of the street."
Campaign supporters receive a Southwest Missouri Drug Task Force Proud Supporter decal for their business window. Individuals, businesses and organizations interested in donating to the campaign should call 847-5010.
"The sheriff's department also applied for a COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) grant, but we were denied that funding this year," said Epperly. "That would have provided a 100 percent match for three years, which would have given us an opportunity to hire two deputies. We have been placed on pending status and been told that there might be more funding available in 2010."
The City of Cassville also applied for a COPS grant through the U.S. Department of Justice and was denied funding for 2009 and placed on pending status regarding 2010 funding.