Throughout the 1980s, drug trafficking and an active drug culture were a part of daily life in the urban core as well as surrounding cities in much of Jackson County. Crack cocaine and other illicit drugs, such as PCP, heroin and marijuana, were openly traded on street corners. Drug houses and meth labs sprang up overnight. One of every two people arrested was a drug user, and as much as 80% of all crime involved illegal drugs.
The one-quarter of one percent county sales tax was first approved by the voters in 1989 for seven years. County residents showed continued support for COMBAT by voting to renew the tax in 1996, 2003 and most recently, 2009, by a better than a two-to-one majority, a dramatic statement of the continued wide-base of support throughout the county.
Both the unique funding mechanism and the ambitious goals of COMBAT have received considerable attention outside of Jackson County. An anti-drug tax was, at the time, an appropriate way to finance drug treatment and prevention in concert with law enforcement. While other states and localities have supported anti-drug programs with sales tax revenues, alcohol-related advertising, and fines collected from those convicted of driving while intoxicated, Jackson County was the first jurisdiction to enact a strategic, countywide anti-drug sales tax dedicated to a holistic and broad-based attack on drug abuse. In 1993, the tax became known as COMBAT – the Jackson County Community Backed Anti-Drug Tax.
The program strategy recognizes that an effective battle against substance abuse requires not only strict law enforcement and prosecution, but also prevention and treatment. COMBAT’s law enforcement aim is to prosecute and incarcerate those who distribute and manufacture drugs or who have committed violent offenses because of their drug activity.
For those offenders who have not committed violent crimes and are not involved in the distribution or manufacture of drugs, COMBAT offers treatment options or other supportive services that will help users overcome their dependency. At the most fundamental level, COMBAT reaches out to young people to preempt the onset of drug use or to interrupt a potential cycle of abuse.