For 25 years, the Jackson County Community Backed Anti-Drug Tax, better known as COMBAT, has focused on fighting drug abuse and crime throughout the community.
Through a quarter-cent county-wide sales tax, COMBAT funds various drug treatment and prevention agencies as well as providing funding for law enforcement to help fight drug crime locally. But over the last year, the COMBAT staff has worked to expand its mission by putting a new focus on stemming the tide of violent crime in local cities and neighborhoods.
The new emphasis on anti-violence initiatives began last February with the launch of the “Don’t Look the Other Way Campaign,” which encouraged citizens to “Step Up” and “Speak Up” by calling the COMBAT hotline (816-881-3662) when they see crime or illegal activity occurring.
“We know that drug abuse and violent crime go hand in hand so it is important for us to focus on ways to fight both of these issues simultaneously,” said Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders.
But these grassroots efforts were just the first step in COMBAT’s strategy in working to reduce violent crime in the community. Last fall, county officials announced that for the first time, COMBAT would begin providing funding to local agencies that work to address specific anti-violence strategies. Following a request for proposals, COMBAT allocated a total of $540,000 in December to 15 local agencies.
To ensure that this new source of funding is used to meet its intended purpose, COMBAT staff held a mandatory orientation for the agencies and their Executive Directors on January 9. The objective of the meeting was to set out the expectations and goals for the new anti-violence plan.
“What we are interested in are innovative and cutting edge ways of fighting violent crime in our community,” said Jackson County COMBAT Director Stacey Daniels-Young. “Because of that, it is important that we let these agencies know our expectations, so that we can work together to effectively and efficiently use citizen’s tax dollars, while meeting our ultimate goal of reducing violence.”
The orientation also gave agency representatives the chance to ask questions and begin coordination with other agencies on the anti-violence plan, while learning from COMBAT officials how the new source of funding differs from COMBAT’s traditional funding mechanisms towards drug treatment and prevention.
“Certainly we have a number of positive resources that COMBAT and the county supports—and we have an opportunity to bring everyone together to conquer a community problem,” said John Fierro, President and CEO of Mattie Rhodes Center, which received $46,000 of anti-violence funding.
While COMBAT officials are eager to move their anti-violence strategies forward, they are also adamant that no funding be diverted from its traditional role of assisting community agencies and law enforcement in regards to drug abuse and treatment.
“We have simply expanded COMBAT’s role in the community,” said County Executive Sanders. “Nothing has changed from we have done in terms of helping rid our neighborhoods and schools of drug addiction, while helping those in need get the treatment they need to turn their lives around. That will remain a focus going forward.”