AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. (WJBF) — The Aiken County Council has figured out how funds from the American Rescue Plan should be spent. Council leaders suggest several local businesses and organizations should benefit from part of the money including the Aiken Center getting $500-thousand.
“It started off my wife — we divorced, and so I started drinking real bad and it got worse and worse. The more I drank one was not enough and a thousand was too many, so I just kept drinking real bad,” John Scill told NewsChannel 6 about needing assistance. “I have been on marijuana or any other kind of drug. But marijuana led me into other drugs in high school and then I’ve gotten different times of sobriety. I maintained my same friendships and I kept going back to those things,” Mary Jane Winburn added.
John and Mary Jane are some of the faces of the Aiken Center. It’s a substance use agency focused on prevention, treatment, and supporting the recovery of those who have addictions. It’s one of several organizations getting money from the American Rescue Plan.”Unfortunately, we’re in a field that the demand for our services is increasing as the problem has so greatly increased, particularly on this pandemic around COVID 19,” Executive Director Margaret Key said.
“In this last instance, I have overdosed five times since December and it led me to the hospital. So I have gotten back in services here,” Winburn recalled.
After leaving the CRSA for several years, for John, it was a conversation with his daughter that forced him to get the treatment he needed. The plane trip from Alaska to Georgia was a defining moment with alcohol. “I started off at 30 [mini bottles] and went when I got Atlanta, I had had like six, seven left and I drank in between Atlanta and Aiken, John Scill shared.
John Scill shares with Shawn his addiction story
At the center, people like John and Mary Jane can get peer support from people who know the issues first hand.”I am the living example for the patients that we come in. To give an example of hope that life can change just like mine does,” Certified Peer Support Staff and Community Health Worker Hunter Deas said.
Meanwhile, the Aiken Center has plans of opening up a location in North Augusta with the money recieved to help serve the people of the western part of the county.
“We’re seeing way too many overdoses, both fatal and non-fatal, EMS and Aiken County has way too many calls,” Key said. “In addition, we’re just trying to work upstream and really do better prevention and catch these problems in the early stages before there’s a tragedy,” Key added.
Mary Jane Winburn shares with Shawn his addiction story
John says now that he’s sober, he’s going to stay sober one day at a time.”And hopefully, by the grace of God, I can continue on that path, you know, and not go back. Cause I was blowing all my money on alcohol and cigarettes,” Scill added.
There are strict guidelines by the federal government for how the American Rescue Plan dollars are to be spent.
- Support public health response: Fund COVID-19 mitigation efforts, medical expenses, behavioral healthcare, and certain public health and safety staff
- Address negative economic impacts: Respond to economic harms to workers, families, small businesses, and nonprofits, or impacted industries and re-hiring of public sector workers
- Replace public sector revenue loss: Use funds to provide government services to the extend of the reduction in revenue experienced due to the pandemic
- Premium pay for essential workers: Offer additional support to those who have and will bear the greatest health risks because of their service in critical infrastructure. Funds can be used retroactively back to January 27, 2020.
- Water, sewer and broadband infrastructure: Make necessary investments to improve access to clean drinking water, invest in wastewater and stormwater infrastructure and provide unserved or underserved locations with new or expanded broadband access
At a recent meeting, the AIken County Council made several amendments for how to allocate the funds. One program targeted toward African Americans ended up not making the cut. “[It will provide] support for us to create the emoji village resource center, as well as our efforts to assist this city and county with prevention,” Aiken resident and WAAW Shout 94.7 FM General Manager Donna Moore Wesby said at the meeting.
The group OK’d amendments to the fiscal year’s budget. Council approved giving funds to not only the Aiken Center but Aiken Electric Cooperative for greater broadband access, sewage and wastewater improvements, the United Way, and the Aiken County Detention Center.
BREAKDOWN of Aiken County Council’s plan to spend American Rescue Plan Act funds