Bridgeman-Smith, HHSA, and John Echeverria from the Probation Department speak with an arrestee. He went to treatment immediately.
When drug users on probation are re-arrested, they often go to jail. But sometimes, they don’t have to.
Linda Bridgeman-Smith, DUI and Prevention Services Manager with the County Health and Human Services Agency Behavioral Health Services, is sometimes present to encourage probationers to get help rather than be incarcerated.
Bridgeman-Smith’s interaction with probationers is part of a drug treatment outreach and enforcement effort under the San Diego County Methamphetamine Strike Force known as Tip the Scale.
“Many are repeat offenders,” said Bridgeman Smith, who has worked for the County since 1999, the last 15 years with the Health and Human Services Agency. “If they go into treatment, they can avoid jail.”
A partnership between public safety and public health, Tip the Scale operations are one-day efforts conducted by the San Diego County Sheriff’s and Probation departments, Behavioral Health Services, treatment providers and law enforcement agencies from jurisdictions all around the region where the operation takes place.
There are probation compliance checks and saturation patrols in known hotspots for drug-related crime. Tip the Scale is conducted two to three times per year and target primarily people between 18 and 26 years old.
The goal of Tip the Scale is to steer drug offenders toward treatment, provide resources to families and to make sure those on probation are in compliance. Counselors are always on hand for a substance abuse conversation, where they briefly talk with offenders about their drug problems and how they might get their lives back on track.
“If they take care of their substance abuse, they are less likely to commit a crime again,” said Bridgeman-Smith, who has been in the substance abuse field for more than 30 years.
Bridgeman-Smith said treatment counselors get to speak with all offenders, unless they are extremely high or considered dangerous. The five-minute conversation is casual and non-confidential.
“Most people are pretty receptive to talking,” Bridgeman-Smith said. “We tell them that if they can get clean, the cycle can stop.”
According to Bridgeman-Smith, about one in five offenders typically go directly into treatment from Tip the Scale. However, treatment is always an option as the judicial process takes place.
“We would like for people to choose treatment,” Bridgeman-Smith said. “We know that treatment works. We want people’s lives to get better.”