The United Way of Dodge City and United Way Leaders, was host to Ford County Sheriff Bill Carr at the Adult Learning Center on Thursday.

Carr talked to a full house regarding the recent narcotics investigation that led to more than 43 arrests on March 1 in Dodge City, Ford and Bucklin.

Carr acknowledged that the narcotics bust was the main topic but wanted to touch on some other things that have gone in during his tenure as sheriff the past three years.

"This is about the wellness of the community," Carr said. "The transparency and wellness that we have working with the community as a whole and are now reaching out to the 16th Judicial District counties."

First responders are part of the wellness community and as Carr took over as sheriff, those responders were suffering from a series of suicides amongst the departments.

Partnerships were beginning to be put together with Compass Behavioral Health, Ford County Fire Department and other organizations and when the suicides were occurring, a zero tolerance policy was put in place and support began to shape.

"We started looking back at things," Carr said, "we had an Eagle Med crash take place in 2004, we had suicides of first responders that were close to us all and started looking into communication personnel and crime scene techs and the effects it was having on them and we created and maintained the zero tolerance policy and with that were able to get grant money to keep things going and offer training to all of our staff."

The grant helped all staff of first responder departments with depression, managing stress, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, critical incident stress debriefing and destress and team building skills.

Carr also touched on the new upgrades to the county radio system that is used by the Ford County Sheriff's Office, Dodge City Police Department, Dodge City and Ford County Fire and EMS as well the weather service and other city and county departments.

"But the one thing that has been near and dear to my heart over the past three years," Carr said, "has been the wellness of the community and we still have a lot of progress to make with that as well but I wanted to touch on that first before going further."

Carr then began the process of how the narcotics investigation went which start by the people of the community reaching out to Carr, DCPD Chief Drew Francis and Ford County Attorney Kevin Salzman about the drugs taking over Ford County.

"This was not just the Ford County Sheriff's Office that was able to do this," Carr said. "This was the work of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, Dodge City Police Department and county attorney's office.

"It was a phenomenal working relationship, this roundup would not have happened if we weren't working together hand in hand.

"There were long days, long weeks, short nights, but as you can tell it played out very well."

When plans began to start regarding the drug issues in the county, the drug of choice that officials decided to go after was methamphetamine.

"There was a lot of meth running rampant," Carr said. "We thought what we needed to focus on more and that was the meth.

"We look at the effects it has on people, the effects of the brain, the heart, the aggressive behaviors, memory loss, decline in the IQ of active users, induce of state psychosis and irreversible damage to nerve cells."

With the addiction aspects of methamphetamine, Carr said that it was one of the few drugs that can hook you into addiction just by taking it one time.

"I have counselors nodding their heads and this fact in agreement," Carr said, "So we looked at that, and said if we can get ahead or at least catch up to it, who can we save? We want to do right by the citizens but we also want to help these people too, they need help.

"So we put this together."

One of things that surprised Carr was how the smaller communities were the ones funneling the narcotics into Dodge City instead of the other way around.

The major issues were happening in Ford and Bucklin and that's where Carr wanted to start.

Eight months later, more than 73 warrants total were served once arrests began taking place with some of the suspects having more than three warrants needing served on previous possession charges.

From there, arrests continued to take place beyond the first 43 including reaching into Ashland in Clark County just a week or so ago which led to the arrest of three subjects charged with distribution of narcotics that were tied into the first 43 investigation.

"It just continues to grow," Carr said. "This is not isolated to Dodge City and Ford County and the communities around us, we're willing to help them as they're willing to work with us."

Carr also shared his thanks with his staff including investigator Andy Thayler, crime analyst evidence custodian Bridget Perez and Captain Martha Castillo.

"The bonds we create and the strong relationships we make with the inner agency communication," Carr said. "Make me so proud, I have a smile on my face, I'm happy it's wonderful and now the real work begins and we're not done.

"Met with some of the officers this morning and we are case building again and our investigators and detectives are out hitting the streets again and just recently served some warrants, so, we're not going to give up and we're not going to stop and we're not going to slow down and we will do what we need to do for the people of this community."

To contact the writer email vmarshall@dodgeglobe.com