MASON CITY, Iowa – Drug task forces across Iowa are beginning their fiscal year with fewer funds in their bank accounts. Dramatic federal funding cuts for these programs is leaving local organizations scratching the surface to keep up with the current illegal drug problems.
Chief Deputy, Dave Hepperly and his team with the North Central Drug Task Force are in the beginning of a new fiscal year and dealing with a dramatic budget cut.
“The drug task force for the 14-15 fiscal year is going to receive a 42% reduction in funding. Our funding will be down to $66,000 for the nine county region for our drug investigators,” says Hepperly.
He says, now they are forced to deal with a growing problem with decreasing funds.
“Any cuts are somewhat devastating to us, because we know from our experience that the drug problem in our area is not going away,” says Hepperly.
Those with the Governor’s Office tell us a few years ago, there was a spike of funding in this area and now, we are coming down from that high dollar amount.
“Certainly this year, the needs that were identified there and elsewhere exceed our ability to fund them with federal grant dollars,” says Woorley.
Now, the North Central Iowa Drug Task Force is learning how to move forward with limited resources. Hepperly says most of their funding goes towards their three full time investigators.
“All three agencies decided to keep the same amount of personnel, and then the cut would just be absorbed equally between those three agencies,” he says. Those three agencies are the Cerro Gordo Sheriff’s Office, the Mason City Police Department, and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office. They are going to have to get creative when it comes to investigations this year.
“It definitely makes you have to at least think in different directions as far as how you’re going to still go after people that are involved with illegal drugs and conduct your investigations,” says Hepperly.
Those with the state recognize this need as well. “We think and hope we are reaching a point of sustainability where we can sustain the program, all be it at a lower or smaller level,” says Assistant Director Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy, Dale Woorley.
But, Hepperly isn’t letting this stop him and his team. “The problem is not going away and we won’t either,” he says.
Those with the Governor’s Office say nearly 15% of this reduction is due to Iowa not complying with several federal policies. Those are the Prison Rape Elimination Act and the Federal Sex Offender Registry Act.
There is some good news, though. Last year that grant money came in handy. 4,189 pounds of illegal drugs were seized, 450 potential drug endangered children were referred to human services, 547 firearms were seized in drug and crime investigations, and 3,792 new program recipients received drug education or treatment.