BRYAN COUNTY, Okla. -- The Bryan County Drug Task Force could be in its final days of serving the community if no more money comes in to help fund the program. Daniel Gotera reports.
Narcotics investigators in Bryan County busted yet another meth lab and arrested two men on Thursday night. It is their second in the last two weeks, but breaking up labs might be a thing of the past come the end of June, as those narcotics investigators could find themselves out of a job because of a lack of federal funding.
Chemicals, containers, and pitchers-- all of which are used to make methamphetamine-- are collected almost every week by Bryan County Drug Task Force investigators, a group which might be out of work in a matter of months despite keeping busy.
"Our program might be refunded but we don’t really know. It’s a wait and see situation."
David Cathey is an investigator with the Bryan County District Attorney's office and says the drug problem in southeastern Oklahoma is not going away anytime soon, which is why not having any money to do a job they say protects the community is so shocking.
"It is an ongoing drug problem in the us and to have the funding taken away is very discouraging, it’s discouraging for the officers who do those jobs and i think its discouraging for those communities."
Due to an omnibus spending bill passed in Washington back in October of last year, funding for several social services including drug task forces across the country was combined with money for defense, and while money might now be attached to war spending which could bring funds back into the program, Cathey says nothing is certain.
"Historically, this has been a federally funded program, and right now nobody is getting any money from the state of Oklahoma. In fact, it’s kind of a zero growth zone."
Cathey says if the county loses its investigators, only city and county law enforcement would be left to take care of a rising drug problem.
Last week, officials in Atoka County, where there are more people being treated for meth use by state run centers, said they are having problems keeping up.
"We’re stretched out pretty thin, and I think the state wastes a lot of money where it can be put towards us," Atoka County Sheriff Gary McCool says.
Not to mention dealing with drugs requires training...
"We have to have special training and special equipment to go into these hazardous environments that meth labs are and the average police officer on the street that’s not his job, and that’s not what he is trained to do."
As of now, Cathey says investigators will continue to go through the county and break up meth labs, but if no more money comes their way all drug-related issues will be handled by local law enforcement or by state narcotics officials.
We tried contacting local elected officials about the funding crisis, but they were unavailable for comment.