Amanda Ballard was recently elected to serve on the Manatee County Commission representing District 2. I spoke with her after her first commission session to get her reaction to the process. Ballard was excited about how collegial the board members were with each other. She said “Much more can be accomplished when commissioners are working together.”
When asked about her focus as she begins her career, Ballard drew on her experience as an attorney for Children’s Legal Services. Children’s Legal Services is an arm of the Florida Department of Children and Families that advocates for children who are involved in dependency court hearings. The opioid crisis has exploded across our community and our nation. The dramatic increase of those suffering from opioid addiction has resulted in many children dealing with parents who are fighting addiction.
Amanda Ballard has personal experiences of dealing with the opioid crisis. Friends she knew in high school became addicted to opioids and ended up losing their lives. She has extended family members who lost their lives as a result of drug addiction.
Ballard believes that it is essential that Manatee County have the resources to deal with the addiction crisis. She believes that the initial contact is usually the Sheriff’s Department and she knows they have a professional approach to dealing with this issue. She intends to work closely with Sheriff Wells to assist his office in obtaining the necessary resources.
One area she believes could be addressed would be increasing the size of the recovery pod at the Manatee County Jail. Ballard thinks it is essential to be able to move addicts into treatment that can assist them in the recovery process. Those addicts who don’t get treatment will leave jail and continue robbing and defrauding our citizens to support the costs of more drugs. Ballard is adamant that she does not want a shotgun approach to funding. She believes it is important to target the funds to make sure we don’t grow the bureaucracy without solving the problem.
Ballard hopes that some of the monetary settlements that have been reached with drug companies over the opioid issue can be used to finance the treatments that are needed. Presently there are long wait times for treatment for addiction and the result is more crime.
Ballard knows it is important that Manatee County manage the growth that we are experiencing. She believes we have a bright future in Manatee County.
I spoke with County Commission Chairman Kevin Van Ostenbridge about Ballard’s first meeting. He was impressed with the quality of her questions during the meeting. “She was obviously prepared for the meeting and she chose her spots and did not feel she had to speak on every issue.”