Why should we care who gets elected sheriff or district attorney?
That’s the question being asked by a group of community members called CAMS—Community Addiction and Mental health Solutions, which formed to see if ordinary citizens could improve the way people with serious mental health issues or addiction are treated in their community.
“What we found out is that there are two local positions that have an enormous impact on how people with these issues are treated—the sheriff and the district attorney. On top of that, it’s we, the people, who elect them,” According to CAMS member Tim Hughes, in a new release.
To provide voters with the information they need, CAMS has scheduled a candidates’ forum for those two races at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 24, at the Crosby Center, 96 Church St., Belfast.
The event will take place in the facility’s Little Theater, which is accessed from Miller Street, and will be moderated by former journalist Jay Davis. Co-sponsors of the event include the Restorative Justice Project of the Midcoast, Seaport Community Health Center, and the Greater Bay Area Ministerium.
All four candidates will be present: Democrat Natasha Irving, who is challenging District Attorney incumbent Jon Liberman, a Republican; and Independent John Gibbs, who is running against current Sheriff Jeff Trafton, also a Republican.
There will be a brief introduction by CAMS, an opportunity for each candidate to speak to the issues, and at least an hour of open public discussion.
According to CAMS member Tammy Lacher Scully: “We’ve learned a lot about how our legal system affects vulnerable members of our community, and the good news is that there’s plenty that can be done without passing more laws or raising a lot more money.”
She continued: “A sheriff can influence whether a person struggling with mental health or addiction issues is arrested at all and, if they do end up incarcerated, whether they can receive treatment while being held. And a district attorney has a lot of latitude when it comes to what a person is charged with, what bail is set, and whether an offender can be diverted to a treatment program instead of going to jail. A lot of these decisions are simply a matter of how they choose to run their operations.”
According to information provided by CAMS, local law enforcement is grappling with both an opioid drug crisis and inadequate mental health services. CAMS members say they are dedicated to helping them find solutions that balance fiscal responsibility with humane and effective treatment.
For more information about the problems associated with opioid drug use, mental illness, and how the criminal justice system is involved in both, CAMS can be found on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Community-Addiction-Mental-health-Solutions-CAMS-141435093473856/